First Spring Showers
March is a troubled month - capable of blizzards, subzero cold, river flooding and tornadoes. Sometimes all in the same week.
We spring forward to Daylight Saving time late tonight, and Mother Nature must have gotten the memo. A surge of milder air aloft sparks rain much of today, which is problematic.
The ground is frozen to a depth of 20-40 inches. Melting snow may spark minor flooding of streets, intersections and poor drainage areas. So many years we go from drought to flood in the blink of an eye. I wonder if 2013 will be one of those years?
A changeover to wet snow tonight may drop a few inches of slush; heavier amounts over Iowa. As if the atmosphere can't quite decide whether it's spring or winter. We're on the cusp.
Skies clear Sunday, a puff of cooler air gives way to another thaw late next week; long range models hinting at 50F after March 20.
No more bitter blasts brewing; we've probably seen the last of the subzero chill for the metro area.
On the weather blog below: NOAA NCDC reports over 65,000 new daily warm weather temperature records, nationwide, in the last 12 months. Compared with 17,000 cold weather records.
More data points in the climate puzzle.
First Spring Showers. In reality it will be more of a steady rain today, possibly freezing on contact with sub-freezing surfaces early (watch the bridges and side-streets before 8 am). As much as 1" of liquid precipitation may fall by tonight, falling mostly as rain. Had the mercury been 3-5 F colder we'd be looking at 8-12" of slushy snow, instead of (mostly) rain.
European Model Snowfall Prediction. The ECMWF is no magic bullet, but it seems to (fairly consistently) outperform most of the U.S. weather models; everything from storm track to precipitation amounts. The model is keeping the heaviest snow south of Minnesota, maybe an inch or two of slushy snow tonight.
Ice - Rain - Snow. The Twin Cities metro is under a Winter Weather Advisory, Winter Storm Warnings posted from St. Cloud to Morris, Alexandria and Fergus Falls (for more ice and wet snow mixing with rain). Details on the advisory from the NWS:
...WINTER STORM EXPECTED OVER PORTIONS OF WESTERN AND CENTRAL MINNESOTA TONIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING... ...A PERIOD OF FREEZING RAIN AND SOME SLEET EXPECTED ELSEWHERE TONIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING... .AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE SHIFTING EAST FROM THE CENTRAL PLAINS INTO THE MID MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY WILL SPREAD A MIXTURE OF FREEZING RAIN AND SLEET ACROSS THE REGION TONIGHT. THE FREEZING RAIN AND SLEET WILL TURN TO ALL SNOW NORTHWEST OF A LINE FROM GRANITE FALLS TO LAKE MILLE LACS BY SATURDAY EVENING. ICE ACCUMULATIONS OF ONE QUARTER TO ONE THIRD INCH CAN BE EXPECTED THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING FOLLOWED BY 2 TO 4 INCHES OF SNOW THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING. FURTHER EAST ACROSS SOUTHERN AND EASTERN MINNESOTA AND WESTERN WISCONSIN...A PERIOD OF FREEZING RAIN AND SOME SLEET IS EXPECTED TONIGHT AND EARLY SATURDAY BEFORE TRANSITIONING TO ALL RAIN SATURDAY AFTERNOON. ICE ACCUMULATIONS IN THESE AREAS WILL GENERALLY RANGE FROM A TENTH TO ONE QUARTER INCH.
Score card for USA climate records in the past 12 months
"The NOAA National Climatic Data Center reported the following new daily record values in the USA for the past 12 months (March 6, 2012 to March 5, 2013), an extraordinary year for record setting:
32,398 new daily maximum temperature records
32,753 new daily warm minimum temperature records
10,525 new daily cold maximum temperature records
6,757 new daily minimum temperature records
28,398 new daily precipitation records
5,979 new daily snowfall records
Obviously the warm signal of climate is dominant in these statistics, with over 65,000 new daily warm temperature records (both max and min) set across the USA in the past 12 months."
- February average monthly temperatures in Minnesota were 2-4 F below the historical average. For a number of communities it was only the second time in 21 months that the mean monthly temperature was below average.
- February precipitation totals were above historical averages statewide. Monthly precipitation totals topped the historical average by approximately one-half inch in many locations, and by over 1" in west central and north central Minnesota counties.
- For most of the state, the water content of the snow pack is estimated to be 2-4 inches. Some west central , north central, and northeast Minnesota counties report snow water equivalence values in excess of 4".
- Because of solidly frozen topsoils and high snow water content in west central Minnesota, the National Weather Service warns of a high risk of moderate to major spring flooding along the Red River. This could lead to an ironic paradox where most of the soil profile will remain dry after floodwaters recede.
- The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to place large portions of Minnesota in the Extreme Drought category. In total, 70% of Minnesota's landscape is considered to be in Extreme Drought or Severe Drought. This is down from 84% in late January. A one-category improvement was assigned to some west central and north central Minnesota counties due to heavy February snowfall.
- Despite the amount of water on the landscape, the drought situation will likely remain unchanged until spring. The deeply and solidly frozen soil assures that very little winter precipitation will make it into the ground. As of late autumn, the soil moisture content in the plant rooting zone was near an all-time low evel at many locations. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving agriculture, forestry, horticulture, tourism and public water supply will begin to emerge.
Photo credit above: "Hackleburg High School in Alabama was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011." (Photograph courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
Photo credit above: "A living room filled with sand washed in by Superstorm Sandy on Nov. 14, 2012 in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey."
Every one of the lakes has endured the winter meltdown:
• Lake Ontario saw the most dramatic decrease with an 88 percent drop in ice coverage.
• Lake Superior lost 76 percent of its ice.
• Lake Michigan saw a decrease of 77 percent..."
Photo credit: "The tsunami-devastated Kesennuma in Miyagi prefecture, is pictured in this side-by-side comparison photo taken March 12, 2011 (left) and March 4, 2013 (right), ahead of the two-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that damaged so much of northeastern Japan."
Graphic credit above: "Temperature change over the past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity's current emissions path (in red, via recent literature)." Courtesy: Think Progress.
Rate Of Warming Since 1900 Is 50 Times Greater Than Rate Of Cooling In Previous 5000 Years. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "A stable climate enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population. Now, the most comprehensive “Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years” ever done reveals just how stable the climate has been — and just how destabilizing manmade carbon pollution has been and will continue to be unless we dramatically reverse emissions trends..." (photo: Wanda Brandt).
Documentary "Greedy Lying Bastards" Targets Climate Change Deniers. Here's a clip from Politico: "The new documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards” takes on contributors to and deniers of climate change and accuses many in the energy industry of lying and putting profits before people. And although director Craig Rosebraugh says it’s an unfortunate coincidence, he says that recent events could have helped the marketing of the film. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better time to release the film,” Rosebraugh told POLITICO, noting that “thankfully — if you can call it thankfully — the climate has responded with the severe weather patterns in 2011 and 2012...”
* Andrew Revkin has more on this story at The New York Times.
Graphic credit above: "Projected Arctic shipping routes." Photograph: guardian.co.uk
Graphic credit above: "Differences in transit routes for two kinds of vessels (red and blue) enabled by shrinking Arctic ice levels and opening of the Northwest Passage by 2050." (Image: Smith and Stephenson, PNAS, Early Edition)
Graphic credit above: "The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere measured by Scripps/NOAA at Mauna Loa. We’re rapidly approaching 400 parts per million."
Graphic credit above: "0–700 meter ocean heat content data from NOAA NODC (Levitus) and NOAA PMEL (Lyman) using the same baseline. The yellow arbitrary denialist line is shown, followed by the linear trends for 2003–2012 and 1993–2012 in red. Standard error bars are also shown."