Thursday, February 28, 2013

March 1: In Like a Cold, Snow-Covered Lamb



March!

The only predictable thing about weather and life? Change. We track long-term trends over many years and decades, but the weather is rarely identical from one year to the next. March 2012: 70s and 80s in Minnesota; record or near-record ice-outs; flowers in full bloom; boats on area lakes by late month. May came 75 days early last year.

Keep your March expectations modest this year. Canadian air will keep seeping south into at least mid-month; a thicker, wider swath of snow cover delaying any spring flings for northern tier states. NOAA predicts a slight cool bias for Minnesota. At 10.3 inches of snow, March is the 3rd snowiest month of the year, behind January & December. But a March snowfall is different: wet & slushy - a higher sun angle usually melts any new snow within 48 hours.

Next Monday's clipper should sail south of town; no significant precipitation of any flavor in sight thru late next week.

No frigid outbreaks either. That may be it for subzero lows, at least in the metro area.

I'm grateful for small things: no need for undershirts, I've retired my ugly earmuffs for the winter - I can walk our dog, Leo, without holding my breath.

A lamb-like start to March!


Why Spring Is Not Right Around The Corner. We may see 40 F by late next week, but don't expect any 50s or 60s into mid-March. There's too much snow on the ground, nationwide, and a negative phase of the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) means a 'wavier" jet stream, capable of pulling more Canadian air south into the USA. Last year a strongly positive NAO mean (howling) west winds from the Pacific were so powerful and persistent that the coldest air was bottled up over northern Canada.

Negative Phase of NAO. NOAA models show a (slightly) negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation lingering into mid-March. Once the NAO goes positive (late March) we may finally see a stronger westerly wind flow and a better chance of 1). melting snow, and then 2). a few 50s. 70s and 80s this year, in March? I highly doubt it.

ECMWF: No Drama. The European model keeps us dry for the next week; Monday's clipper staying south and west of the Twin Cities. After a chilly weekend temperatures moderate the latter half of next week - a shot at 40+ by the end of next week.

Risk Of A Clipper. The ECMWF forecast, valid Monday evening, shows a clipper pushing snow across the Dakotas into southwestern Minnesota. Confidence level is still low as to whether we'll see any snow in the metro area.

U.S. Models: Snow Potential Sunday Night Into Monday Morning. We're keeping an eye on the next clipper, which may drop a few inches of snow on southern and western Minnesota late Sunday into Monday. A light accumulation is possible in the metro - I want to see a few more model runs to see if there's any continuity.

March Temperature Outlook. NOAA's CPC (Climate Prediction Center) is forecasting a slight cool bias from Montana into the Dakotas and Minnesota - which jives with the long-range temperature data I'm seeing. Keep the heavy jackets handy - spring is most definitely not right around the corner. Map: Ham Weather.

Attention Shoppers: There's So Much Snow The Roof May Collapse. This is probably not what you want to hear when you're in one of those Big Box retail stores. KOMU.com has the details from the University of Missouri-Columbia: "Shoppers at Sam's Club and Walmart on Conley Road report being told to evacuate the store Thursday morning because of a threat of roof collapse. The shoppers said stores were worried the load of snow on the roofs of the buildings is too great. Eyewitnesses said they could see workers removing snow from some of the roofs..."

Dueling Tornadoes. The YouTube clip is spectacular - twin waterspouts off the coast of Spain. I wish My Spanish was better....

Another Perspective. Check out the photo from Facebook and Irish Weather Online - another look at a pair of waterspouts clearly visible just offshore. Tornadoes are rare across Europe, but small twisters are possible during the spring months when instability and wind shear values are high.

Water Wars? Here In The U.S.? Here's the intro to a story at scienceblogs.com: "OK, put away your guns. We’re not talking shooting wars, at least not yet, at least not in the U.S. We’re talking politicians shooting off their mouths, political wars, and court battles. But water is serious business. But it is a different story around the world, where there is a long and sad history of violent conflict over water. At the Pacific Institute we maintain the Water Conflict Chronology, documenting examples going back literally 5,000 years. As others have pointed out, water can be – and often is – a source of cooperation rather than conflict. But conflicts over water are real. And as populations and economies grow, and as we increasingly reach “peak water” limits to local water resources, I believe that the risks of conflicts will increase, even here in the United States, and not just in the water-scarce arid west..."

Google Glass And Other Tech Stuff I Don't Need. Here is a clip of an article at PBS's Next Avenue that caught my eye: "...As a tech-minded person and writer, I see new products all the time. Sometimes they’re exciting, but more often than not I find them borderline ridiculous. But don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourself what you think about this sampling of new gizmos that I came across at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas last January.
  1. GameCube Exergaming is hot, especially for 50-plussers who want to Zumba in the privacy of their living rooms. But with all its harness and pulleys, GameCube looks like something the Marquis de Sade would have designed if he were alive today.
  2. The iPotty The premise: Bribe the kid to go on the potty with iPad time instead of candy. I doubted anyone would get on board with this — until a young friend hoping to send her toddler to a preschool that accepts only toilet-trained kids told me this is her last resort.
  3. Jeans with built-in keyboard, mouse and speakers Who. Would. Want. These? They've got to be horrible for every joint in a boomer’s hips, neck, back, arms and hands. (Plus they'd make us look fat.) Right now there’s only one prototype pair. Let’s hope it stays that way...." (image above: Wired.com).

19 People Who Are Having A Way Worse Day Than You. O.K. It's juvenile, but a friend sent me this link from Buzzfeed, and I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Click the link at your own risk.




Climate Stories...

Waves In Atmosphere Could Be Linked To Extreme Weather, New Study Finds. A warmer Arctic may be impacting jet stream patterns, especially in the summer and fall, increasing the potential for more weather extremes. Here's an excerpt from LiveScience and Huffington Post: "Extreme weather events have been on the rise in the last few decades, and man-made climate change may be causing them by interfering with global air-flow patterns, according to new research. The Northern Hemisphere has taken a beating from extreme weather in recent years — the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and the 2011 heat wave in the United States, for example. These events, in a general sense, are the result of the global movement of air. Giant waves of air in the atmosphere normally even out the climate, by bringing warm air north from the tropics and cold air south from the Arctic. But a new study suggests these colossal waves have gotten stuck in place during extreme weather events..." (Image above: NASA).

Funding Climate Denial. Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust's funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests....One of the "controversial issues" that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions.* The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged..." (Graphic above: The Guardian and Greenpeace).


Forecasting Change: A Meteorologist And An Artist On The Climate Crisis. Cynthia Hopkins, whose play, "This Clement World",  focuses on a rapidly changing climate, garnered rave reviews when it opened in the New York City area. The play is coming to The Walker next week. Here's an excerpt of a recent interview at The Walker Art Center's Magazine: "Paul Douglas considers himself an “albino unicorn.” A moderate Republican, he’s also a meteorologist who believes climate change is real. That position was met with scorn by some of the right, who called him a “RINO [Republican In Name Only] climate poser,” a “global warming hoax promoter,” and worse. Theater artist and musician Cynthia Hopkins didn’t need much convincing about the dire consequences we face if we don’t address the climate crisis, but two events were pivotal in pushing her to take up the subject in her art—a talk on sustainability at the 2009 Tipping Point conference and a residency with Cape Farewell, a program that aims to “instigate a cultural response to climate change.” In 2010, she joined Cape Farewell’s Arctic Expedition, in which artists and marine scientists experienced the very environment most threatened by global warming. While their career paths are sharply divergent, Douglas and Hopkins share twin tools when addressing climate change—science and spirituality...."

NASA: Climate Change Things Forests In Eastern U.S. You think you're stressed by recent summers? So are the trees. Here's a story that caught my eye, an excerpt courtesy of USA Today: "Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States, NASA satellites show. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic's forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week. Other afflicted areas include southern Appalachia, the southeastern coast and to a lesser extent, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. "There has been a series of summers — growing seasons for trees — that have been deficient in moisture. When you combine that with higher temperatures, it's stressing the trees," says author Christopher Potter, a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif..."

Graphic credit above: "Drought and heat have caused thinning of forest canopy in the eastern United States from 2000 to 2010, according to a NASA study released in this month. Green areas show increasing tree canopy whereas brown shades show a thinning. Four forest areas negatively affected are circled in red: Great Lakes, Southern Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain." (Photo: NASA)

How Climate Change Affects Your Winter Sports. Here's an excerpt from a story at The PBS News Hour: "Jenny Bushmaker teaches children to love the outdoors at an environment education facility in Silver Bay, Minn. But with less and less snow each winter, her work is becoming more difficult. “Without snow in the winter, [I] have a hard time teaching snowshoeing, Ojibwe winter history, cross country skiing, animal tracking, winter animal adaptations and much more,” Bushmaker said. “I spend more time indoors than I used to and I'm not nearly as active as I normally am.”

Antarctica's Exit Glaciers: The Drunk Drivers of Climate Change. Here's a portion of a fascinating article at arstechnica.com: "Richard Alley's studies of the role of ice sheets in climate change have earned him various awards, a PBS special, and have made him a repeat performer at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. When I first saw him speak a few years ago, he argued that the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland play a huge role in controlling sea levels. Mountain glaciers don't hold nearly as much water, while the thermal expansion of water in the oceans is a slower and more predictable process. The ice sheets, in contrast, have been a big unknown. At the time, we didn't yet fully understand how much of them might melt, or how quickly they might dump water into the oceans..."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 28: Last Day of "Meteorological Winter" (no, really!)

Typo Alert. Yes, I know meteorologist is spelled wrong. I still thought it was funny. And no, I can't explain March.

Armchair Meteorologist

This is going to sound like blatant kissing-up, but it's the truth: I have never lived in a place where the locals know so much about the weather. Yes, some days it's a matter of pure survival. It would be hard to find a Minnesotan who doesn't know a thing or two about Doppler, wall clouds or dew point.

Meteorologists look for cues: Pacific water temperatures and blocking patterns aloft, when trying to peer out beyond a few days. My prediction of a cool first half of March is based on a negative phase of the NAO, the North Atlantic Oscillation. More dips & bulges in the jet stream create a non-stop runway for Canadian air to reach the USA; a steady diet of cold fronts, which in turn, can spin up more storms.

March 2012 saw a freakishly positive phase of the NAO; screaming west winds from the Pacific keeping cold air bottled up to our north. The result: the warmest March on record. This looks like a more typical March: slush, slop & mud.

A Monday clipper may drop light snow on MSP; long-range guidance hints at 40+ by late next week. Grilling weather.

An average March (ha!) brings 10.3 inches of slushy snow. Get out and play in our 6" snow; rain is possible late next week.

Cool And Quiet. March comes in like a (chillled) lamb, which means it'll go out as a buzzard. Or yak? I get confused with my animals - sorry. We cool off into Friday and Saturday, back up to freezing by Sunday, the next clipper capable of an inch of snow Monday (more possible south of MSP). The ECMWF model above is hinting at low 40s next Friday, although snow on the ground will limit just how mild it can get late next week.

Monday Clipper. These fast-moving storms that approach from the northwest, from the general direction of Alberta, Canada, are exceedingly fickle, putting down a relatively narrow stripe of snow. The latest European run (courtesy of WSI) shows the best chance of a couple inches south/west of the Twin Cities.

Warming Trend Late Next Week. The ECMWF is hinting at a surge of southern moisture by next Friday, temperatures aloft probably warm enough for rain or drizzle. I wouldn't be surprised to see highs topping 40 by next Friday and Saturday, then colder weather for the second week of March. Map: WSI.

March Temperature Outlook. NOAA's CPC (Climate Prediction Center) is forecasting a slight cool bias from Montana into the Dakotas and Minnesota - which jives with the long-range temperature data I'm seeing. Keep the heavy jackets handy - spring is most definitely not right around the corner. Map: Ham Weather.

Tomorrow: March 1 (Start of "Meteorological Spring") As far as the atmosphere is concerned today is the last day of winter. Data shows that, historically, the 90 coldest days run from roughly December 1 to March 1, nationwide. That's not to say we won't see more cold fronts and more (slushy) snowfalls in March, but the coldest days are definitely behind us now. Here's today's 2:30 segment on YouTube, courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

Blizzard Buries Kansas Snowfall Records. Here's a good summary of the recent parade of blizzards across the Central Plains from The Christian Science Monitor: "The blizzard that pounded the southern Plains states yesterday (Feb. 25) added to the dumping the area received just days ago and has broken the all-time monthly snowfall record for Wichita, Kan. Yesterday's storm dropped nearly 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) of snow on that city, bringing the monthly total to 21 inches (53 cm) — the most snow the city has seen in any month since records have been kept, according to the National Weather Service. The snowfall also broke the city's record for February of 20.5 inches (52 cm), set in 1913..."

Photo credit above: "Wes Anderson clears the driveway in front of his grandparent's house, Feb. 26 in Sedalia, Mo. The second major snowstorm in a week battered the nation's midsection Tuesday, dropping a half-foot or more of snow across Missouri and Kansas with drifts more than 2 feet high." Sydney Brink / Sedalia Democrat / AP

Cyclone Intensifies, Australia's Iron Ore Mines Brace. Here comes "Rusty" (great name for a hurricane if you ask me), pushing into northwestern Australia. Reuters has the story; here's an excerpt: "A powerful cyclone headed for Australia's Port Hedland, that has brought half the world's seaborne-traded iron ore to a halt, has intensified and is set to make landfall late on Wednesday, threatening to flood inland mine operations and rail links. Weather warnings extend as far as 500 kms (310 miles) inland to the massive mining camps and towns of Tom Price, Mt Newman and Nullagine, operated by Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group. Hardest-hit areas could receive up to 600 millimeters, or 2 feet, of rain in 24 hours, said the Bureau of Meteorology..."

19 People Who Are Having A Way Worse Day Than You. O.K. It's juvenile, but a friend sent me this link from Buzzfeed, and I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. Click the link at your own risk.



** photo above courtesy of Marlo Lundy and WeatherNation TV.


Climate Stories...

Forecasting Change: A Meteorologist And An Artist On The Climate Crisis. I will be participating in a discussion on climate change at The Walker Art Center this evening with a couple of climate scientists and Cynthia Hopkins, whose play, "This Clement World",  focused on a rapidly changing climate, garnered rave reviews when it opened in the New York City area. The play is coming to The Walker next week. Here's an excerpt of a recent interview at The Walker Art Center's Magazine: "Paul Douglas considers himself an “albino unicorn.” A moderate Republican, he’s also a meteorologist who believes climate change is real. That position was met with scorn by some of the right, who called him a “RINO [Republican In Name Only] climate poser,” a “global warming hoax promoter,” and worse. Theater artist and musician Cynthia Hopkins didn’t need much convincing about the dire consequences we face if we don’t address the climate crisis, but two events were pivotal in pushing her to take up the subject in her art—a talk on sustainability at the 2009 Tipping Point conference and a residency with Cape Farewell, a program that aims to “instigate a cultural response to climate change.” In 2010, she joined Cape Farewell’s Arctic Expedition, in which artists and marine scientists experienced the very environment most threatened by global warming. While their career paths are sharply divergent, Douglas and Hopkins share twin tools when addressing climate change—science and spirituality...."

Paul Douglas On Climate Change: "The Longer We Delay, The Harder It's Going To Be To Come Up With Viable Solutions. More details on "This Clement World", the acclaimed play focusing on climate change that's coming to The Walker Art Center next week, in this interview in City Pages: "(Today), meteorologist Paul Douglas will moderate a discussion with artist Cynthia Hopkins, whose climate change themed show, This Clement World, comes to the Walker next week. Patrick Hamilton, director of Global Change Initiatives at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and climate scientist Peter Snyder will also be on hand. Douglas, whose launched the 24-hour Weather Nation TV last summer, is a vocal advocate of preventing climate change. We took a moment to chat with Douglas about how artists can help get the message out, and why it's so important to do so. 


How is that you came to be speaking at the Walker Art Center? 

I think Cynthia's show -- This Clement World -- exemplifies the notion of using art and theater to try to reach people about this issue when some seem to be oblivious to the science. In some cases, the more facts you throw at them, the more they dig in their heels. So I find it fascinating, and, frankly, highly effective that there are other ways to reach people -- in this case on a visceral, emotional level through art..."

NASA: Climate Change Things Forests In Eastern U.S. You think you're stressed by recent summers? So are the trees. Here's a story that caught my eye, an excerpt courtesy of USA Today: "Years of drought and high temperatures are thinning forests in the upper Great Lakes and the eastern United States, NASA satellites show. Nearly 40% of the Mid-Atlantic's forests lost tree canopy cover, ranging from 10% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, according to a NASA study released this week. Other afflicted areas include southern Appalachia, the southeastern coast and to a lesser extent, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. "There has been a series of summers — growing seasons for trees — that have been deficient in moisture. When you combine that with higher temperatures, it's stressing the trees," says author Christopher Potter, a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif..."

Graphic credit above: "Drought and heat have caused thinning of forest canopy in the eastern United States from 2000 to 2010, according to a NASA study released in this month. Green areas show increasing tree canopy whereas brown shades show a thinning. Four forest areas negatively affected are circled in red: Great Lakes, Southern Appalachian, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern Coastal Plain." (Photo: NASA)

How Climate Change Affects Your Winter Sports. Here's an excerpt from a story at The PBS News Hour: "Jenny Bushmaker teaches children to love the outdoors at an environment education facility in Silver Bay, Minn. But with less and less snow each winter, her work is becoming more difficult. “Without snow in the winter, [I] have a hard time teaching snowshoeing, Ojibwe winter history, cross country skiing, animal tracking, winter animal adaptations and much more,” Bushmaker said. “I spend more time indoors than I used to and I'm not nearly as active as I normally am.”

Antarctica's Exit Glaciers: The Drunk Drivers of Climate Change. Here's a portion of a fascinating article at arstechnica.com: "Richard Alley's studies of the role of ice sheets in climate change have earned him various awards, a PBS special, and have made him a repeat performer at the meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. When I first saw him speak a few years ago, he argued that the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland play a huge role in controlling sea levels. Mountain glaciers don't hold nearly as much water, while the thermal expansion of water in the oceans is a slower and more predictable process. The ice sheets, in contrast, have been a big unknown. At the time, we didn't yet fully understand how much of them might melt, or how quickly they might dump water into the oceans..."

Climate Change In Nebraska Requires Planning For Future Of Agriculture, Experts Say. Here's a clip of a story at journalstar.com: "...The 2012 drought was an eye opener, said Michael Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center and a member of the Climate Assessment  Response Committee. The warm and dry weather beat out the dust bowl years of the 1930s. Across the country, economic losses from the drought are estimated between $35 billion and $77 billion. While scientists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said the drought falls within the context of natural climate variability, he said, the heat combined with the dryness in 2012 gives a glimpse of what future climate extremes might look like in Nebraska. And all climate models indicate increased temperature in the future. Hansen said that although Nebraska has always been a state of weather extremes, it seems the volatility is increasing...."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 27: Great Lakes Dig Out (no sign of an early spring this year)


Holding Pattern

Meteorological spring kicks off Friday, March 1. Forget the calendar - as far as the atmosphere is concerned - spring is 48 hours away. Historical weather data shows the coldest 90 days of the year, on average, are from December 1 to March 1.

Feeling better yet? We've picked up over 2 hours and 20 minutes of daylight since December 21. A higher sun angle means the odds of subzero weather drop off rapidly in March. That said, snow is on the ground over 54 percent of the USA, which will act as a brake on any warming in the weeks ahead. I still maintain that spring will come reluctantly this year, which may be good news.

Why? It should mean larger north-south temperature contrasts across America, helping to spin up bigger, wetter storms, taking the edge off our drought.

In theory.

Yesterday's inversion (warming temperatures with altitude) coupled with light winds lead to a rare February air pollution alert. How long can you hold your breath?

No big storms; Monday's clipper may brush us with wet snow Monday; a few inches south of MSP. On the blog: keep expectations for March warmth low. A negative phase of the NAO should mean a cooler, stormier month.

More slush anyone?

* photos of hoar frost above from WeatherNation TV producer D.J. Kayser, taken at Watab Creek Park near Sartell.

Smog - Minneapolis Style. This midday Tuesday webcam frame-grab was courtesy of KARE-11, a combination of fog and smog trapped in the lowest few hundred feet of the atmosphere by light winds and an inversion (warming temperatures with altitude).

Late Winter Smog. Yes, this is a bit unusual for late February, but with major storms tracking well south/east of Minnesota and a weak area of high pressure producing clear to partly skies and light winds overhead, conditions are favorable for inversions, which allow man-made pollutants to accumulate near ground-level, posing the greatest risk to seniors, and people with heart/respiratory problems. Map from 6:20 am yesterday courtesy of AIRNow and the EPA.

What's An Inversion? The Salt Lake City office of the National Weather Service has a good explainer describing how inversions can form. They're even more likely in mountainous areas, which can create a "bowl effect", hills and mountains helping to trap pollutants near the ground, especially when temperatures are warming with altitude. Salt Lake City has seen an unusually high number of smoggy days this winter due to inversions: "On most days, the temperature of air in the atmosphere is cooler the higher up in altitude you go. This is because most of the suns energy is converted to sensible heat at the ground, which in turn warms the air at the surface. The warm air rises in the atmosphere, where it expands and cools. Sometimes, however, the temperature of air actually increases with height. The situation of having warm air on top of cooler air is referred to as a temperature inversion, because the temperature profile of the atmosphere is "inverted" from its usual state. There are two types of temperature inversions: surface inversions that occur near the Earth's surface, and aloft inversions that occur above the ground. Surface inversions are the most important in the study of air quality."

Winter Air Pollution Episodes. Winter smog is most likely under high pressure bubbles, when winds are light and natural and man-made pollutants can collect near the ground. Having snow on the ground cools the lowest few hundred feet of the atmosphere, sharpening inversions, trapping even more crud. Details in today's 2.30 YouTube edition of Climate Matters: "An air pollution health alert was issued Tuesday for folks in the Twin Cities and Rochester. Meteorologist Paul Douglas has more on what causes this winter smog."

Quiet. No weather headaches or drama thru the middle of next week. ECMWF data shows a cooling trend Friday and Saturday, then a rebound back up to near freezing from Sunday into most of next week. Monday's clipper will probably sail south of MSP; another chance of light snow next Thursday.

A Near-Clipping. The ECMWF model (WSI) shows a weak clipper passing south of the Twin Cities Monday, a potential for a few quick inches along the I-90 corridor of southern Minnesota.

Cold Start To March. After near-normal temperatures during the first week of March temperatures cool off by the second week of March, cooler than average weather east of the Rockies between March 8-12. No early spring this year. Map above: Ham Weather.

The White And Windy City. NOAA data shows 4-6" snowfall amounts over much of Chicago, as much as 10" for Waukegon and 8" for Milwaukee - the biggest snowfall of the winter so far, what has been a very slow winter for snow-lovers in Chicago.

Relief At Last? The pattern appears to be shifting; more Pacific moisture reaching the USA. Here's an excerpt of a story at Discover Magazine: "As I write this late Saturday night, clouds are thickening over the Front Range of Colorado, where I live, and weather models are predicting more than a foot of snow in some places. And this is just the first of three storms that are predicted to blow through Colorado through Thursday. As the image above shows, we can thank a veritable atmospheric fire hose out in the Pacific that is spewing precipitable water at the West coast, and thereby helping to spawn storms..."

Turbulence Ahead For Weather Satellites. There may be a gap in coverage - which could (in theory) impact the U.S. model forecast accuracy in the years ahead. Here's an excerpt from National Geographic News: "Like a celestial version of Pixar's industrious robot Wall-E, environmental-monitoring satellites continually whiz overhead, quietly performing their allotted tasks of taking data and beaming the information down to climate researchers and weather forecasters. But a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlights the fact that this monitoring network—which weather forecasters and climate researchers rely on—is in trouble. That's because these U.S.-owned satellites are aging, and there are serious concerns about whether their replacements will be ready by the time they start to break down, said J. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society and a professor at the University of Georgia in Athens..."

Negative Phase Of NAO. The North Atlantic Oscillation has been negative for roughly 1 week, meaning a greater potential for Canadian air to surge south into the USA. Strong positive phases correlate with a strong zonal flow from the Pacific (what we experienced last March when the USA saw record-shattering heat). A negative phase of the NAO correlates with stormier, colder weather, especially east of the Rockies. A negative phase of the NAO is expected to linger into mid-March. No early spring this year, at least not for Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, and most northern cities of the USA.

NAO: Negative Phase. This graphic from NCEP/NCAR shows average temperatures anomalies of a negative phase of the NAO, Canadian air making a straight shot at the USA; more waves (dips and bulges) in the jet stream, capable of pulling polar air south, spinning up major storms in the process.

2012 and 2013: Meteorological Apples and Oranges. Last year at this time snow was on the ground over only 23% of the USA, with a powerful west to east wind flow, zonal winds from the Pacific, which warmed us up into the 70s and 80s in March. Nearly 14,000 heat records in March 2012, a taste of early summer in late winter! Don't expect a rerun this year. A negative phase of the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) is keeping mild, Pacific air from sweeping across North America - I expect a parade of cold fronts well into March. But this may be a good thing (in terms of the drought). A more vigorous north-south temperature contrast may set the stage for more vigorous storms, capable of pulling moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico, helping to ease the drought, especially over the Midwest. Details on today's climate overview: "Meteorological spring starts Friday, March 1st, but for most of the nation it will still look and feel like winter. Have you seen Amarillo, TX today? This is a sharp contrast from a year ago. Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks back at the record busting heatwaves last March and explains why he's not expecting a repeat this year."

Energy Company To Test Floating Solar Islands. Now here's a novel idea; details courtesy of gizmag.com: "Swiss energy company Viteos has announced that it is to build three floating solar arrays on Lake Neuch√Ętel. Viteos will work with tech company and "energy enabler" Nolaris to build the 25-m (82-ft) diameter islands, each with 100 photovoltaic panels..."

Putting Out A Newspaper Sans Power. We take so many things for granted, including the power necessary to keep all our tech running, 24/7. Here's an excerpt of a harrowing story from St. Cloud Times Executive Editor John Bodette outlining the difficulties in getting a newspaper published when (most) of the power goes out: "Good morning, St. Cloud area. I’m never taking electricity for granted again. I have said this before, but I’m saying it again. About 8:20 p.m on Feb. 16, we began losing power in the Times Media building. Apparently, a transformer went out in our northside neighborhood, causing an outage for thousands of customers, including us. Xcel told us that it would take until 1 a.m. to finish repairs. However, our deadline for the Sunday edition is 11:10 p.m., and we had loads of news pages in progress when the partial outage began..."

The Worst Foods For Sleep? So many of us are tossing and turning (and worrying) every night - here's an article that caught my eye from Huffington Post: "A glass of warm milk, a cup of chamomile tea, a few slices of tryptophan-laced turkey breast -- a number of foods are at least rumored to help us drift off to sleep. But, besides the obvious (hello, 4 p.m. Starbucks run), could there be foods that are actually keeping us up at night? For the most part, the research surrounding sleep and diet focuses on how your sleep patterns affect what -- and how much -- you eat, says Kelly Glazer Baron, Ph.D., M.P.H, a sleep researcher and neurology instructor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. We know that too little sleep clouds our food judgement and that the most sleep-deprived among us are likely to serve ourselves larger portions. We also know that both too little and too much sleep can lead to weight gain, for the reasons above and more..." (image above: MyZeo.com, which has 13 surprising facts about insomnia).

A Wind Meter For Your iPhone? Yes, this may very well complete me. I'll be the envy of my peers the next time I go wind surfing, or paragliding, or bungee jumping. But will it work on my couch? Details here.

Is iWatch Gesture Control How Steve Jobs "Cracked The Code of iTV?" Calling Dick Tracy - he wants his watch back. Not sure I want to be checking e-mail on my watch, but the (alleged/rumored) watch may be a means to an end, according to this article at Gizmag: "In Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO is quoted as saying that he finally “cracked the code” of an Apple TV set. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Isaacson quoted Jobs. “I finally cracked it.” What if Jobs’ secret was Apple’s rumored smartwatch? And what if that secret involved hands-free 3D gesture control? Not long ago, the internet was abuzz with rumors of an Apple smartwatch (iWatch?). Most of us have been focusing on the wearable device as an extension of an iPhone. Flexible touchscreen, voice control, and some version of iOS. Think Pebble on Cupertino-made steroids...."





Climate Stories...

Polar Regions Will See More Snow Over Next Century, Less Everywhere Else. Snow less often, at our latitude, but when it does snow a better chance of extreme snow/blizzard conditions, especially if you live near the east coast. Here's an excerpt from redOrbit: "A newly-developed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate model predicts that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels will lead to less snowfall in most areas of the world – including the United States – over the next 100 years. In fact, research conducted by Sarah Kapnick of the Princeton University Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) program and Thomas Delworth, a senior physical scientist at the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), forecasts that only the polar regions and the Earth’s highest altitudes will receive more snow over the next century. “The decline in snowfall could spell trouble for regions such as the western United States that rely on snowmelt as a source of fresh water,” Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research at the New Jersey-based university, reported on Friday..." (photo above: NASA).

Global Warming May Cause Extremes By Slowing Planetary Waves. I've mentioned this a few times, the tendency for weather patterns to become "stuck", meaning more intense droughts and a greater potential for flooding as storms hover over one area - longer. Here's an excerpt of a story at Reuters: "Global warming may have caused extreme events such as a 2011 drought in the United States and a 2003 heatwave in Europe by slowing vast, wave-like weather flows in the northern hemisphere, scientists said on Tuesday. The study of meandering air systems that encircle the planet adds to understanding of extremes that have killed thousands of people and driven up food prices in the past decade. Such planetary air flows, which suck warm air from the tropics when they swing north and draw cold air from the Arctic when they swing south, seem to be have slowed more often in recent summers and left some regions sweltering, they said. "During several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks," wrote Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany..."

Weather Extremes Provoked By Trapping Of Giant Waves In The Atmosphere. Here is an excerpt of the actual paper referenced above, at the Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research: "...“What we found is that during several recent extreme weather events these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks. So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays. In fact, we observe a strong amplification of the usually weak, slowly moving component of these waves,” says Petoukhov. Time is critical here: two or three days of 30 degrees Celsius are no problem, but twenty or more days lead to extreme heat stress. Since many ecosystems and cities are not adapted to this, prolonged hot periods can result in a high death toll, forest fires, and dramatic harvest losses.

Anomalous surface temperatures are disturbing the air flows

Climate change caused by greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning does not mean uniform global warming – in the Arctic, the relative increase of temperatures, amplified by the loss of snow and ice, is higher than on average. This in turn reduces the temperature difference between the Arctic and, for example, Europe, yet temperature differences are a main driver of air flow
...."

Can Accountants Succeed On Climate Where Others Have Failed? Here's a snippet of an interesting story at National Geographic: "This past week the Government Accountability Office, the federal government’s independent auditor and watchdog agency, added climate change to its list of “high-risk” threats to the nation’s fiscal health. “Climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government,” the GAO report said. “The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.” And for anyone concerned about getting the government to act on climate change, that raises a tantalizing question: Can accountants succeed where scientists and the environmental movement haven’t?"

Republican Tom Ridge: "Climate Change Is A National Security Issue." Here's an excerpt of a story that resonated with me from pennlive.com: "...The U.S. national security community, including leaders from the military, homeland security, and intelligence, understand that climate change is a national security threat,” Ridge said. “They're not talking about whether or not it is occurring – it is," Ridge said. "They're talking about addressing the problem and protecting the American people. It's time Washington does the same.” Ridge, a former Homeland Security secretary, appeared in Washington as part of an effort by the Partnership for a Secure America, a bipartisan foreign policy group. The 38 foreign policy leaders signed an open letter arguing the national security threat of climate change..."

Photo credit: "Former Pennsylvania Gov. and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge."

Long Term Climate Change Trends Worry Experts. Here's a clip from a story at Indiana Public Media: "...Indiana University Professor of Atmospheric Science Sara Pryor is a lead author of the section that looks at how climate change could affect the Midwest, specifically. She says farmers could see future crops hurt by droughts similar to the ones the region saw last summer. “Both corn and soybean yields are decreased if we have warm summers, and if we have dry summers,” she says “So, given that our climate change projections are that the Midwest will become warmer and dryer in the summer, we certainly have expectations that crop yields will decrease.” She says if current trends continue, the growing region for crops will move gradually north. “Because our region is relatively flat, for one degree of warming, a crop has to move; all plants have to move, about 100 kilometers to keep at that same temperature.” However, she says, the farther north in the Midwest you go, the worst the soil quality gets..."

Can NASA Stop Global Warming? I'm skeptical that any technology can stop the warming altogether, although we may be able to launch solutions that slow the rate of warming. Here's an excerpt from Project-Syndicate: "...Obama should challenge NASA to address one of today’s most important issues, global warming, by developing safe, cost-effective technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere and oceans. This mission could be accomplished in two phases.During the first phase, which could be completed by 2020, researchers would identify roughly 10-20 candidate geo-engineering technologies and test them in small-scale experiments. The second phase would include large-scale test demonstrations to evaluate the most promising technologies by 2025. Developing these technologies is crucial, given that, over the last half-century, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from roughly 320 parts per million to almost 400 parts per million, heating up the planet and increasing the acidity of the world’s oceans. At this rate, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will exceed 450 parts per million in roughly 25 years..."

Climate Change Is Cutting Humans' Work Capacity. Climate Central has the story; here's an excerpt: "It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity that gets you. That’s the conclusion of a new study that finds climate change has reduced humanity’s ability to work by making the planet hotter and muggier. That one-two punch has already cut the world’s working capacity by 10 percent since humans began burning large amounts of oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels at the start of the Industrial Revolution, found the analysis, which was published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict that dive will continue, reshaping daily life in the most populated areas of the planet as climate change intensifies. 
By 2050, a combination of rising heat and humidity is likely to cut the world’s labor capacity to 80 percent during summer months — twice the effect observed today...