Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Forward Western USA - Winter Hangover Eastern USA

Don't Forget. Set your clocks ahead one hour late tonight as we welcome DST, Daylight Saving Time, with open arms. Another sign of lukewarm days to come.

Dirty Snow Season

“Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God” wrote Kurt Vonnegut. How true. The world has done a pretty good job convincing us that stuff matters. But in the end all we have are memories. As my late mother told me "at the end of your life what matters is what you've seen, who you've loved and who you helped."

Our lousy, endless winter probably contributed to my new found wanderlust, and one-too-many trips to warmer destinations, but my wife and I were always relieved to return to MSP. Because you doesn’t fully appreciate Minnesota until you leave, and then return home.

The DNR reports that, statewide, meteorological winter was the 4th coldest in 119 years of record-keeping. Nationwide early March saw the most snow on the ground since 1978. We've earned our spring this year.

Models show 40s Sunday & Monday, again late next week. Milder, Pacific air passing over cold snowpack will moisten up the low layers of the atmosphere, sparking low stratus and fog at times.

Expect a slush-fest next week.

Time to dig out the second-string shoes.

I just had serious ice dams removed from my roof, so I'm praying for a slow thaw and no tournament snowstorms. But after this winter-on-steroids, I'm not feeling very lucky.

Breaking News: Maps Actually Look Like "March". After a numbing, record-breaking start to the month things are finally looking up. Today will be brisk, but blue sky will make it feel OK out there. With a welcome Pacific breeze returning early next week highs should climb above 40F Sunday and Monday before cooling off a little by midweek; warming up again late next week, according to ECMWF guidance. Flurries or very light snow may brush southern Minnesota Tuesday (most of it passing south of MSP). Graph: Weatherspark.

Mid-Month Moderation. By the third week of March we expect a subtle shift in upper level steering winds, the fabled jet stream we love to pontificate about. A lingering long-wave trough out east will keep colder, stormier weather east of the Mississippi, but roughly the western half of America is under the influence of a Pacific flow, meaning moderating temperatures. Marc 13-17 500 mb wind forecast courtesy of NOAA.

Relieved To Be Average Again. GFS numbers confirm a slow moderating trend, daytime highs in the 30s and 40s the third week of November with no sign of a Tournament storm - at least not yet.

Super-Sized Winter of 2014: Ice More Damaging Than Snow. Snow gets much of the national media attention, but ice is far more dangerous and damaging, sparking more accidents, roof collapses and downed tree limbs and power lines. That's the subject of today's edition of Climate Matters: "Yes, this has been a jaw-dropping, super-sized, winter on steroids winter east of the Rockies." -- Meteorologist Paul Douglas said. A crazy winter it has been for much of the U.S. as snow, ice and freezing rain continues into March. The Great Lakes are breaking ice-cover records and snow covered 54% of the U.S. as of Tuesday, the most since 1978. It has been a wild one."

Snow Water Equivalent. The latest numbers from NOAA estimate 3-4" of liquid water trapped in the snow pack over the south metro, but closer to 5-6" from Isanti and Cambridge to Taylors Falls, as much as 10" along Lake Superior's North Shore. Pray for a gradual thaw (with no heavy rain).

Unusually Deep Snow Over Northeastern Minnesota. In his most recent post, Dr. Mark Seeley answers a listener question about the deep snow pack along the North Shore and over the Minnesota Arrowhead. Here's an excerpt of his response at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...Though not record-setting it is rare to have snow depths over 40 inches, yet several observers have reported these amounts for this winter including 47 inches near Two Harbors, 43 inches at Isabella, 42 inches at Wolf Ridge and Babbitt, 41 inches at Cook, and 40 inches at Cloquet and Grand Marais. The measurement of 47 inches neat Two Harbors is the deepest snow there since they measured 51 inches in March of 1965. Similarly at Babbitt the reading of 42 inches is the most there since a snow depth of 52 inches in February of 1969. The state record by the way is a snow depth of 75 inches at Pigeon River Bridge in March of 1950..."

Snow, Ice Cover Will Boost Great Lakes Ice Levels. AP has the article - here's a link and excerpt: "Water levels in the Great Lakes are expected to continue a steady recovery this year, courtesy of widespread ice cover that is slowing evaporation and snowfall that has approached record amounts in some cities, federal experts said Wednesday. The siege of polar air that has gripped the region this winter has caused the most extensive freeze-over of the lakes since the record-setting year of 1979, when nearly 95 percent of their surface area solidified. On Tuesday, the ice cover reached its highest point since then - 91 percent, said George Leshkevich, a physical scientist with the federal Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor..."

Image credit above: "In this Feb. 16, 2014 satellite image provided by the NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch is the ice cover on the Great Lakes. The Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday, March 5, 2014 that the heavy ice cover and snowfall across the Great Lakes basin should help water levels move closer to normal over the next six months." (AP Photo/NOAA Great Lakes CoastWatch).

Trapped In A Devastating Drought, California Needs To Take On Some Surprising Sacred Cows. Here's a clip from a story at New Republic which puts the the drought into stark perspective: "...Today in California, a different kind of resource shock is unfolding, and it too may end up, a generation hence, defining an era. This time the resource is water, not oil. Today’s California drought is starting to force similarly life-changing choices, this time in the nation’s most populous state, long a bellwether and, according to some counts, the world’s eighth largest economy. The land of milk and honey has begun in recent weeks to get serious about its water crisis: Farmers are ripping out crops, religious believers are praying for rain, and local governments are ordering restaurants to stop serving glasses of water except to diners who specifically request them. This comes at a time when America’s domestic supply of the natural resource it has cared most about—fossil fuel—is more plentiful than ever..."

Climatologist Who Predicted California Drought 10 years Ago Says It May Soon Be "Even More Dire". Joe Romm at Think Progress delves into the California drought, how much is natural vs. influenced by changes in the Arctic (melting ice) and changes in the upper level steering winds - what one meteorologist dubbed a "ridiculously resilient ridge" of high pressure that has nudged storms away from the west coast - fairly consistently - for nearly 3 years now. How is a warming climate and changes in far northern latitudes impacting the drought? Here's an excerpt: "...These four mechanisms are:
  1. In a warming world, a larger fraction of total precipitation falls in downpours, which means a larger fraction is lost to storm runoff (as opposed to being absorbed in soil).
  2. In mountain regions that are warming, as most are, a larger fraction of precipitation falls as rain rather than as snow, which means lower stream flows in spring and summer.
  3. What snowpack there is melts earlier in a warming world, further reducing flows later in the year.
  4. Where temperatures are higher, losses of water from soil and reservoirs due to evaporation are likewise higher than they would otherwise be..."

Get Ready For The Next Climate Phenomenon: El Nino. As we told you yesterday the probabilities of lurching into an El Nino warming phase of the Pacific are increasing for later in 2014. The implications for Minnesota and the rest of the nation? Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...An El Niño increases the likelihood of wet conditions in California and the Southwest, which could provide relief to areas suffering through severe drought. Warm conditions are also more likely in the Northeast. That’s welcome news for a region where teeth have been chattering all winter. The Eastern Seaboard could also see the major hurricane drought stretch for another year as El Niño tends to inhibit the formation of Atlantic Hurricanes. The last official major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in 2005..."

Image credit above: "Global average surface temperatures, showing El Niño years in red." Credit: Climate Central using WMO data.

Bow Echo. Here's a good summary of the bow echo - straight-line wind event that swept across south Florida Thursday, producing 60-65 mph. wind gusts, courtesy of NOAA SPC meteorologist Greg Carbin and the Miami National Weather Service.

Shelf Cloud. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick snapped this photo of a thunderstorm gust front and resulting shelf cloud at Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Not a bad selection at all for Spring Break.

Don't Worry. WWIII Will Almost Certainly Never Happen. The old axiom that nations that trade together rarely go to war together may have some merit - but complacency is never a good idea either. The Week has the story - here's a clip: "...But what about a non-nuclear global war? Other changes — economic and social in nature — have made that highly unlikely too. The world has become much more economically interconnected since the last global war. Economic cooperation treaties and free trade agreements have intertwined the economies of countries around the world. This has meant there has been a huge rise in the volume of global trade since World War II, and especially since the 1980s..."

File Image credit above: AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Cmdr. Christy Hagen.

Facebook Looks To Buy Solar-Powered Drone Company To Deliver Worldwide Internet. Because I can't get FB in nearly enough places. I want to be able to update my profile while steaming off the coast of Nigeria. Gizmag has the story; here's the intro: "Titan Aerospace's Solara, a solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle designed to cruise at an altitude of 20 km (12.42 miles) for five years at a time, certainly got our attention back in August, and it appears to have not gone unnoticed by some of tech's bigger players either. Facebook is reportedly in talks to acquire the company with a view to using the drones as a means of providing internet access to the world's under-served regions..."

SAT Scores Of The Rich And Famous. I'm not surprised about Bill Gates, but Ke$ha scoring a 1500? Impressive. The New York Times has the blurb - here's an excerpt: "...The cover story of this weekend’s magazine has the background of the SAT overhaul. You can get an early look at it online Thursday morning. Until then, here are the SAT scores that go with some boldfaced names, as reported in places other than Twitter.

1. Ben Affleck: “Ben had almost perfect SAT scores in high school.”
2. Ke$ha: 1,500
3. Bill Gates: 1,590
4. George W. Bush: 1,206
5. Al Gore: 1,355
6. Scarlett Johansson: 1,080

Photo credit above: Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press. "Ke$ha scored 1500 on her SATs."

I Hope You're Right. The power of positive thinking, right?

Climate Stories....
The Navy Lays Out Its Plan For A More Accessible Arctic. Mashable has the story; here's the introduction: "The United States Navy is drawing up a plan to operate in what is rapidly becoming a seasonally-open Arctic Ocean, and thus a new theater of operations. The amount of sea ice that covers the Arctic Ocean at the end of melt season in September has receded by about 3% per decade since 1981, with a record low set in 2012. Less sea ice means more open water, and rapid Arctic climate change has essentially created new international waterways for shipping and resource extraction activities. The area of seasonally ice-free waters is likely to continue to widen over the coming decades, and Navy wants to keep tabs on it..."

9 Foods Threatened By Climate Change. No, not the coffee! Take anything, but please don't take my coffee beans away. Huffington Post has the story - here's the intro: "While the next four decades aren't likely to see an agricultural apocalypse, it's pretty likely that some foods will be harder to come by -- due to increased costs and decreased supply -- as harvesting becomes more difficult due to rising temperatures and irregular weather patterns spurred by climate change. Here are a few of the food items you should be most concerned about..."

Climate Change: Backdoor Conversion. Nobody wants to be subjected to incessant gloom and doom. I get that. I tell people the truth: that addressing this long-term problem will lead to innovation, new technologies (and new jobs), not just in the energy sector, but across the board. Here's an excerpt of a story at Huffington Post that resonated: "...It is not by indulging in hyperbolic doomsday oratory. No one wants to hear about a hypothetical calamity that would turn their life into a nightmare. It is just human nature to procrastinate if delaying in taking on a menacing existential challenge can be justified by its uncertainty (which in this case relates to the degree, not the occurrence of temperature rise). What will work is a positive message. To get Americans engaged, speak to them in a language they readily understand and can appreciate--dollars and cents..."