Long Overdue for a Subzero Stretch

”I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood” wrote Bill Watterson, the cartoonist who brought Calvin and Hobbes to life. Minnesota’s coldest days tend to be sunny, which makes the sting a bit more tolerable.

There hasn’t been much polar pain this winter. As of Tuesday MSP has only experienced 2 subzero nights. Will this be a rerun of 2011-12, when the metro only experienced 3 nights below zero? Or maybe 2013-14, when we spent 53 subzero nights in Polar Purgatory?

Temperatures should trend milder than average through the first week of February, but I’m seeing some signs of potentially frigid air by mid-February; possibly an extended stretch of days near or below zero.

Although the coldest days of winter are (historically) behind us now, keep in mind February brings an average of 7 nights below zero. There’s a conversation – stopper.

A dry sky lingers into Friday, and a weekend storm looks less impressive, with the bulk of moisture passing south of Minnesota. Again.

Very Slow Warming Trend. Today will be as chilly as it gets the next 2 weeks or so, with upper 20s by the weekend and a chance of some snow late Saturday into Sunday. Most of the moisture and energy with the weekend storm will probably pass south of Minnesota – right now it doesn’t look like much slush.

Weekend Meteogram for MSP

Nuisance Snow? ECMWF guidance suggests light snow late Saturday into Sunday with a chance of a couple inches. The odds of a plowable snow have diminished somewhat in the last 24 hours.


February Thaw Followed by February Chill. On average MSP sees 7 subzero nights during the month of February, and we aren’t nearly out of the woods with negative numbers just yet. We may see a stretch of subzero nights the second and third week of February, but the last time GFS hinted at subzero readings it turned out to be a meteorological mirage. We’ll see, but yes, we are due for a real correction.

On The Cusp of Frigid? Looking out 2 weeks GFS guidance shows polar air pooling over Canada, and all it will take is a series of clippers to drag successive waves of increasingly cold air south of the border, arriving in waves of cold fronts.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Tuesday morning, January 26th, 2021:

Central United States Winter Storm

Morning Radar. Snow continues to fall from portions of Iowa into the Great Lakes with our central United States winter storm this morning, with wintry precipitation (including freezing rain) stretching east into portions of the Northeast, including Pennsylvania. A band of at least 6” of snow has fallen so far from Kansas across southeastern Nebraska into central Iowa. The top total so far is 14.5” 5 miles west-northwest of Lincoln, NE. 14” totals have been reported in Panama (IA), Adair (IA), Silver City (IA), and 4 miles east-northeast of Hickman (NE). Through 6 AM, the Des Moines airport reported 12.6” of snow, and officially 11.9” had fallen at the Omaha airport as of Midnight.

Timing The Wintry Weather. Winter weather with this system will continue to slowly wind down across the region today, with snow ending in Des Moines around the midday hours, and snow ending in Chicago by the evening commute. Some of the wintry weather associated with this system will continue to impact the Northeast into Wednesday. Meanwhile, another batch of snow will move into the central Plains late today into tonight, with an additional 1-3” of snow expected.

Winter Weather Alerts. Numerous Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings stretch from the central Plains into the Northeast this morning. We will only focus on the alerts that are in place with this winter storm below, but advisories in Kansas are for the next batch of snow tonight into Wednesday. Some of the locations under alerts for the major winter storm include:

  • Omaha, NE: Winter Weather Advisory through 9 AM for less than an additional inch of snow.
  • Des Moines, IA: Winter Storm Warning through Noon for an additional 1-3” of snow.
  • Cedar Rapids And Davenport, IA: Winter Storm Warning through Noon Tuesday for total snow of 4-8”.
  • Chicago, IL: Winter Storm Warning through 5 PM for an additional 2-5” of snow, with the highest near the lake.
  • Milwaukee, WI: Winter Storm Warning through 6 PM for a total of 6-10” of snow with winds to 35 mph.
  • Detroit, MI: Winter Weather Advisory through 4 PM today for 2-4” of snow.
  • Cleveland, OH: Winter Weather Advisory though 10 AM for up to an additional 1” of snow and a glaze of ice.
  • Baltimore, MD: Winter Weather Advisory through 10 AM for mixed precipitation with a light glaze of ice.
  • New York City: Winter Weather Advisory through Midnight tonight for up to 1” of snow and a light glaze of ice.
  • Buffalo, NY: Winter Weather Advisory through 1 AM Wednesday for 3-5” of snow.

Expected Snow. The heaviest additional snow with this system will fall from portions of the Great Lakes into the Northeast, where in some areas at least 3-6” of snow could fall. This will continue to lead to hazardous driving conditions across these regions.

Western Storms

Western Systems. We are watching a few systems out west over the next few days. First, snow continues to fall today across portions of the Four Corners region. As we head later today into tonight, a new system starts to impact the west coast, with an atmospheric river event expected to set up near/south of the Bay Area Wednesday into Thursday bringing heavy rain and mountain snow.

Heavy Rain Expected. We will be watching flood concerns across portions of central California, particularly near and south of the Bay Area, with the atmospheric river event during the middle to end of the week. There are some areas in western California south of the Bay Area that could see at least 5-8” of rain through Thursday evening. Flash Flood Watches are in place, particularly in burn scar areas where debris flows would be possible.


Excessive Rain Risk. The greatest risk of flooding across western California will be Wednesday, which is when that moderate excessive rain risk leading to flash flooding is in place. During the Wednesday/Wednesday Night time frame, at least 5” of rain will be possible. While all recent burn scars across the region will be at risk of flash flooding and debris flows, the Dolan and River burn scars would be the most at risk.

Winter Storm Concerns. Numerous Winter Storm Warnings are in place across the Southwest. Across areas farther east, they are in place for the snow today. Farther west, they are for the next storm to impact the region. Across portions of the Sierras, at least 100” of snow could fall through Thursday evening.

Wind Concerns. The atmospheric river event will also bring strong winds to central California, with High Wind Warnings and Wind Advisories in place. San Francisco is under a High Wind Warning from 7 PM tonight through 7 AM Wednesday for 25-35 mph south winds gusting to 60 mph. Sacramento is under a High Wind Warnings from 8 PM tonight through Noon Wednesday for 35-45 mph south winds gusting to 60 mph.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

A Relatively Balmy January. Dr. Mark Seeley has details on lingering warmth in this week’s edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: “…It looks like this January may end up among the 5 warmest in state history based on statewide climate data so far. Through two-thirds of the month temperatures are running from 8 to 17 degrees F above normal. The last ten days of the month will not all be warmer than normal, but a mixture of above and below normal values. This will mean that the average temperature for January in Minnesota may not be as cold as December was. Nevertheless, we can anticipate a period of three consecutive months with monthly mean temperatures above normal. The persistence of warmer than normal temperatures has been so strong that the November through January period may end up among the 5 warmest historically as well...”

Billion-dollar weather disasters between 1990 – 2020, as cataloged by Aon.
Dr. Jeff Masters

World Hammered by Record 50 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2020. Dr. Jeff Masters writes for Yale Climate Connections: “Earth was besieged by a record 50 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020, the most such disasters ever recorded after adjusting for inflation, said insurance broker Aon (formerly called Aon Benfield) in its annual report issued January 25. The previous record was 46 billion-dollar weather disasters, set in 2010 and 2011. The annual average of billion-dollar weather disasters since records began in 1990 is 29. The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 416 weather and earthquake disasters cataloged by Aon in 2020 was $268 billion (2020 USD). Most of the 2020 total, by far, came from weather-related disasters ($258 billion), 29% above the 2001-2020 inflation-adjusted average. Those numbers make 2020 the fifth costliest year on record for weather-related disasters…”


Increasing Numbers of U.S. Residents Live in High-Risk Wildfire and Flood Zones. Why? Details via State of the Planet, at Columbia University’s Earth Institute: “The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that around 13 million Americans are living within a 100-year flood zone. But over the last few years, researchers have found that the government’s estimates are far lower than the ground realities. A 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters states that, taking into account the risk of flooding from rivers, about 41 million people are exposed to flood risk. That roughly equals three times more than FEMA’s estimates of residents who live in areas with a 1 percent chance of floods striking during any year. A calculation in mid-2020 estimated that at least 14.6 million properties are located in the 100-year flood zone, according to First Street Foundation, a group of New York-based academics and experts…”

Remembering the Night When Two Atomic Bombs Fell – On North Carolina. National Geographic has the terrifying details: “…Within an hour, in the early morning of January 24, a military helicopter was hovering overhead. Above the whomp-whomp of the blades, an amplified voice kept repeating the same word: “Evacuate!” “We didn’t know why,” Reeves recalls. “We didn’t ask why. We just got out of there.” What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II…”

Coke with Coffee arrives at US stores on Monday.

When You Need a Jolt with Your Jolt. Caffeine? What caffeine? CNN Business reports: “Coke with Coffee is finally launching Monday in the United States after being available for years internationally. The product is made with Brazilian coffee and comes in dark blend, vanilla and caramel flavors. There’s also a calorie-free zero sugar version. Each 12-ounce can has 69 milligrams of caffeine. That’s about half as much as is in a 12-ounce cup of coffee but far more than what’s in a can of Coke…”

9” snow on the ground at MSP Tuesday morning.

21 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

24 F. average MSP high on January 26.

30 F. high on January 26, 2020.

January 27, 2006: A record high temperature of 50 degrees is set at the Eau Claire Regional Airport.

WEDNESDAY: Some sun, quite chilly. Winds: N 3-8. High: 12

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 2. High: 20

FRIDAY: Cloudy skies, breezy. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 16. High: 24

SATURDAY: Some AM sun, snow arrives late. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 18. High: 28

SUNDAY: Periods of snow. Light accumulation? Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 23. High: 27

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy skies. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 14. High: 23

TUESDAY: Cloudy and breezy. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 13. High: 27

Climate Stories….

The Minnesota Climate Adaptation Awards, presented by the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) since 2014, recognize and celebrate exceptional achievements in leadership, education, research, policies, and practices that improve resilience through the development, advancement or implementation of climate adaptation strategies. To honor their accomplishments and impact, MCAP will present each recipient with an award created from recycled glass by Michael Tondor of Blue Skies Glassworks in Two Harbors, Minnesota…” (for a complete rundown of mission and award recipients click here. My thanks to Dr. Mark Seeley for sharing the link and encouraging adaptation efforts).

The Oceans Melting Greenland mission carried out depth and salinity measurements of Greenland’s fjords by boat and aircraft.

Earth is Losing 1.2 Trillion Tons of Ice Each Year. And It’s Going to Get Worse. The Washington Post (paywall) has the story: “Global ice loss has increased rapidly over the past two decades, and scientists are still underestimating just how much sea levels could rise, according to alarming new research published this month. From the thin ice shield covering most of the Arctic Ocean to the mile-thick mantle of the polar ice sheets, ice losses have soared from about 760 billion tons per year in the 1990s to more than 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s, a new study released Monday shows. That is an increase of more than 60 percent, equating to 28 trillion tons of melted ice in total — and it means that roughly 3 percent of all the extra energy trapped within Earth’s system by climate change has gone toward turning ice into water…”

Brian Brettschneider

Climate Change Uproots Global Agriculture. The weather is, increasingly, playing out of tune, according to a post at ”In much of the world, climate change is altering regional growing conditions and making them more unpredictable. Farmers are finding it harder to consistently grow enough food to meet increasing demand. Securing the world’s food supply for the future, experts assert, requires us to tally the good and the bad in the current agricultural structure, including the infrastructure and technology in food distribution systems. Small farms, which account for about 90% of the world’s 570 million farms, are particularly vulnerable to changes in seasonal climate. Land tended by families for generations may suddenly become nonarable. A change in the timing or intensity of yearly rainy seasons or the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), for example, could bring rains or drought that wipe out a family’s crops...”

Ars Technica

NYC Pension Funds Move to Divest $4 Billion from Fossil Fuels: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Three of New York City’s largest employee pension funds representing civil servants, teachers, and school administrators, are divesting from securities tied to fossil fuel companies. With a combined value of $239 billion, representing 70% of the city’s pension assets, the move is one of the largest fossil fuel divestments in the world. Under the resolution, the pensions would phase out fossil fuel investments over five years. “Fossil fuels are not only bad for our planet and our frontline communities, they are a bad investment,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The NYC pension funds join others, including cities in California and Australia, in the divestment movement.” (Bloomberg $, The Independent, Reuters, Kings County Politics, Patch, NY Daily News)

Global temperature anomalies on January 26, 2021.

Walz, DFL Leaders Announce Plan for 100% Clean Energy in Minnesota by 2050. has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…The four-part plan includes:

  • Achieving 100% clean energy by 2040, requiring all electric utilities in the state to use only carbon-free energy resources by 2040 while setting interim goals along the way. It includes provisions to help workers and communities affected by the transition, while prioritizing local jobs and prevailing wages for large, new clean energy projects.
  • Prioritizing clean energy first, so when a utility proposes replacing or adding new power generation, energy efficiency is prioritized over fossil fuels.
  • Energy optimization, raising the state’s energy efficiency resource standard for utilities and expanding the Conservation Improvement Program while encouraging utilities to develop new innovative new programs to help consumers and businesses switch to cleaner, more efficient energy...”

National Academies

Informing the New Administration: Action on Climate Change for a More Sustainable, Resilient Future. The National Academies has some ideas for prioritizing climate action; here’s an excerpt: “…To truly reverse course on climate change, the nation needs a broad portfolio of climate responses that begin now and are sustained for decades. At the core are efforts to limit future climate change by rapidly reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — the focus of several recent and upcoming National Academies reports and initiatives. For instance, a study committee that is examining how to sensibly accelerate decarbonization of the U.S. energy system and move toward net-zero emissions will soon release a report that assesses “no regrets” policies, strategies, and research directions that can be acted upon quickly, considering both technical and socio-economic goals. The committee’s final publication, expected in early 2022, will more broadly identify technology, policy, and social and behavioral changes to put the U.S. on a path to an eventual carbon-free economy...”

Exploration acreage licences acquired, in thousands of square kilometres.
Rystad Energy

Big Oil Hits Brakes on Search for New Fossil Fuels. Reuters has details: “Top oil and gas companies sharply slowed their search for new fossil fuel resources last year, data shows, as lower energy prices due to the coronavirus crisis triggered spending cuts. Acquisitions of new onshore and offshore exploration licenses for the top five Western energy giants dropped to the lowest in at least five years, data from Oslo-based consultancy Rystad Energy showed. The number of exploration licensing rounds dropped last year due to the epidemic while companies including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and France’s Total also reduced spending, Rystad Energy analyst Palzor Shenga said...”

Covid-19 virus
Centers for Disease Control

World Leaders Urged to Learn from Pandemic in Adapting to Climate Change. Here’s the intro to an analysis at Thomson Reuters Foundation: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world what it is like to go through a dangerous emergency of the kind that could occur if climate change accelerates – and offers lessons on how to respond, the head of the U.N. climate science panel said Friday. Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the health crisis was “a foretaste of what climate change could do to our society, to nature and to our lives”. “Both climate change and COVID-19 have shown us the risks of an unthinking and rapacious approach to nature and its resources,” he told an event at which scientists stressed the importance of adapting to a warming planet. Lee said leaders should address both crises by investing in a sustainable and resilient recovery…”