NOAA GFS Model valid 1 am January 17, 2021

Subzero Blast Roughly Two Weeks Away?

”As the days lengthen, the cold doth strengthen” the old proverb goes. Yes it doth. Historically, we are about 2 weeks away from the midpoint of winter, when temperatures tend to bottom out.

I’ve spoken about an atmospheric-lag. Our coldest air tends to arrive 3-4 weeks after the Winter Solstice. Why? Long, cold nights and ample snow cover counteract a higher sun angle. Temperature start to tick up again by late January, but the next few weeks often bring the coldest air of the year.

2021 may be no exception. After this week’s January Thaw, temperatures trend closer to average next week, and NOAA models bring in a pretty big blast of subzero air by the third week of January.

I see no evidence of the kind of waviness in the jet stream, no “high-amplitude” pattern that might stall and prolong the pain. No sign of a long-lasting Polar Vortex. Not yet. But give it two weeks: you’ll soon be able to do your Nanook of the North impersonation.

No storms in sight either. Enjoy a quiet, mild and drippy week.

Paul Douglas

2020: Warmer and Drier for Minnesota. Here’s an excerpt of a good climate summary from Dr. Mark Seeley at Minnesota WeatherTalk: “…As we wrap up the year, basically a warmer than normal one and slightly drier than normal one as well, we can look back at the statewide pattern month by month. Overall, 2020 ended up among the top 15 warmest in state history (back to 1895) and was drier than normal ranking about 43rd driest out of 126 years…”

Number One for 2020: Record November Warmth.
The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office

Top 5 Weather Events of 2020 in Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office has a good summary of last year’s atmospheric craziness: “Here are the results of voting for the top five weather events of 2020 from the Minnesota State Climatology Office. Votes were cast from various weather enthusiasts including the National Weather Service, the University of Minnesota, State agencies and Facebook followers. Please visit us on Facebook (link is external) and post your own top five weather events for Minnesota.

#5 Easter Sunday Winter Storm: April 12, 2020

For the third year in a row, mid-April brought a major winter weather event to southern Minnesota. Although not as potent as the storms in 2018 and 2019, this one did produce accumulations of up to 10 inches, including 6.6 inches In the Twin Cities…”

Brushed by Flakes. Once again big weather systems are passing well south of Minnesota. Wednesday an inch or two of snow may pile up over the eastern Dakotas and far southwest Minnesota, with little more than stray flurries for most of our state.

Trending Above Average. The normal high in the Twin Cities now is 24F and temperatures should be consistently 5-10F above average into next week. Enjoy the warm front.


Subzero Correction. I’m not sure about duration yet, although I don’t see evidence of a prolonged subzero cold wave – but there’s little doubt a real blast of numbing air will show up overhead roughly 2 weeks from now.

Brian Brettschneider
Brian Brettschneider

2020 USA Temperature Anomalies. Climate guru Brian Brettschneider has a good summary of of temperature departures last year; daytime highs were 2-4F warmer for much of the west and New England while nighttime lows were significantly warmer than average across much of the eastern U.S.

The remnants of a business in Sulphur, La., destroyed by Hurricane Laura in August
Matthew Cappucci, Capital Weather Gang

From Ferocious Fires to an Historic Wildfire Season, 2020 Took Weather to New Extremes. Capital Weather Gang has a good summary: “As most of us are breathing a sigh of relief that 2020 is just about over, many meteorologists are doing the same thing. The year featured devastating wildfires and hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos and flooding, and just about everything else the atmosphere has to offer. Wildfires and hurricanes were relentless and especially punishing, setting records for the amount of real estate they affected in the Lower 48, while killing dozens. Supercharged by human-caused climate change, they signaled trouble for the future as the climate warms further. A year filled with extreme weather meant a hefty price tag: Insurance firm Aon estimates that at least 25 separate billion-dollar weather disasters unfolded across the United States this year...”

Total Billion-dollar Weather/Climate Disasters since 1980
NOAA and Climate Central

Billion-Dollar Disasters: The Costs, in Lives and Dollars, Have Never Been So High. Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “…Looking back over the last 40 years, the stepped up pace of change is also hard to miss. The decade of the 1980s saw 29 billion-dollar events, with associated damage estimated at $178.1 billion. The annual average came to 2.9 events a year, at a cost of roughly $17.8 billion annually. In contrast, in the 10 years from 2010 through 2019, 44 billion-dollar weather events were responsible for total damages of $460.8 billion, or an average of 11.9 events and $81 billion a year. Just as alarming is the number of lives lost to extreme weather and climate, which over the last four decades has averaged 351 annually. In contrast, in the three years from 2017 through 2019, billion-dollar weather “events” tied to global warming killed 1,190 people, according to the weather and climate center...”

Paul Douglas

Snow and Ice Pose a Vexing Obstacle for Self-Driving Cars. No kidding. It’s hard to follow the road if you can’t see the road. A story at (paywall) caught my eye: “…The vehicle worked well enough to begin with, recognizing Canadian cars and pedestrians just as well as German ones. But then Czarnecki took the autonomous car for a spin in heavy Ontarian snow. It quickly became a calamity on wheels, with the safety driver forced to grab the wheel repeatedly to avert disaster. The incident highlights a gap in the development of self-driving cars: maneuvering in bad weather. To address the problem, Czarnecki and Steven Waslander, a professor at the University of Toronto, compiled a data set of images from snowy and rainy Canadian roads. It includes footage of foggy camera views, blizzard conditions, and cars sliding around, captured over two winters...”

Sports Illustrated
Caitlyn Jordan/News Sentinel/USA TODAY Network

College Football: NCAA’s COVID Response Exposed the Truth. Here’s an excerpt from Sports Illustrated: “…In 2020, though, it became obvious that the apparatus that was supposed to support a larger infrastructure has overwhelmed it instead. Around the country, schools responded to their budget crunches by slashing nonrevenue sports, like huge law firms deciding to cut costs by slashing pro bono work. College sports have been a hypocritical enterprise for a long time; any sober assessment of the last half-century reached that conclusion. But now hypocrisy is part of the mission statement. Football has been stripped down to what it really is: lucrative TV programming. In 2020, it didn’t matter whether playing was safe for surrounding communities or even whether students were on campus…”

COVID-19 virus
Centers for Disease Control

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with epidemiologist Larry Brilliant at (paywall): “…The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened. One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we’re only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we’re not testing enough, and we’re just blind to it, then we’re in a world of hurt. Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer...”

Daryl Rainbow for Quartz

Netflix Has No Choice But to Disrupt the Entertainment Business, Again. A post at Quartz has interesting perspective on the ongoing streaming wars: “…Netflix’s essential gamble—the one it made in 2013 by putting all its chips in original content—is now much more expansive than rivaling HBO. The company is betting that by spending huge sums on content, it will grow so large and indispensable to consumers that it actually becomes the world’s primary method for consuming video. It wants to become TV. While some analysts are spooked by the company’s largesse, its ever-growing content budget—$14.6 billion in 2019—and a negative free cash flow (it still spends more cash than it has left after accounting for profits), Netflix thinks all these concerns will be quelled over the next few years. Coronavirus is just one of many challenges on this quest for world domination. Another big one: The company’s global success awoke the sleeping giant, Disney, like Godzilla rising from the sea…”

38 F. high in the Twin Cities on Monday.

24 F. average MSP high on January 4.

30 F. high on January 4, 2019.

January 5, 2012: Record warmth is felt across the state. Many locations in western Minnesota soared over 50 degrees, with temperatures reaching the 60s at Marshall, Canby, and Madison. This was the first record of any 60 degree temperatures in Minnesota during the first week of January.

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, quiet. Winds: E 5-10. High: near 30

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 25. High: 32

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 19. High: near 30

FRIDAY: Patchy clouds and fog. Winds: S 3-8. Wake-up: 20. High: 26

SATURDAY: Lingering clouds and fog. Winds: NW 3-8. Wake-up: 20. High: 25

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 18. High: 26

MONDAY: Patchy fog, few sunny peeks? Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 14. High: 27

Climate Stories…

Scott Kelly, NASA ISS

“The Most Significant Climate Legislation Ever”. How Stimulus Bill Tackles Warming Climate. USA TODAY reports: “The mammoth spending bill Congress approved (last) Monday to curb the spiraling pandemic and prevent a government shutdown carries another description: a substantial step to confront climate change. Environmental advocates are touting the $2.3 trillion bill as a potential game-changer thanks to tax breaks for renewable energy sources, initiatives to promote carbon capture storage and a significant phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are a key culprit to the planet’s warming.In addition, the measure not only eliminates the Trump administration’s proposed deep cuts to federal climate science programs but adds millions to those programs for 2021…”

Fourth National Climate Assessment

How Trump Tried, but Largely Failed, to Derail America’s Top Climate Report. The New York Times (paywall) reports: “The National Climate Assessment, America’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, stands out for many reasons: Hundreds of scientists across the federal government and academia join forces to compile the best insights available on climate change. The results, released just twice a decade or so, shape years of government decisions. Now, as the clock runs down on President Trump’s time in office, the climate assessment has gained a new distinction: It is one of the few major U.S. climate initiatives that his administration tried, yet largely failed, to undermine. How the Trump White House attempted to put its mark on the report, and why those efforts stumbled, demonstrates the resilience of federal climate science despite the administration’s haphazard efforts to impede it...”

Miami Dade County

Scientists Warn Sea-Level Rise from Climate Change Could Exceed High-End Projections. CBS and RochesterFirst report: “Of the many threats from climate change, sea-level rise will most certainly be among the most impactful, making hundreds of thousands of square miles of coastline uninhabitable and potentially displacing over 100 million people worldwide by the end of the century. This threat is a top concern for national security experts because forced migration poses significant risks to international security and stability. The magnitude of this threat depends heavily on how much the oceans rise in the coming decades. But because of the complex dynamics of massive ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, exact estimates remain elusive, ranging from just over a foot to several feet above current levels. That disparity is the difference between tens of millions of people forced from their homes or a much more unmanageable hundreds of millions displaced...”

ProPublica and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii’s Beaches are Disappearing. ProPublic and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser report on a vexxing challenge: “Hawaii’s beaches are owned by the public, and the government is required to preserve them. So years ago, officials adopted a “no tolerance” policy toward new seawalls, which scientists say are the primary cause of coastal erosion. But over the past two decades, oceanfront property owners across the state have used an array of loopholes in state and county laws to get around that policy, armoring their own properties at the expense of the environment and public shoreline access. Government officials have granted more than 230 environmental exemptions to owners of homes, hotels and condos, according to records compiled by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica…”

Zack Labe, Twitter

Cambridge Becomes First U.S. City to Require Stickers Warning of Climate Threat at Gas Pumps. Business Insider explains: “Cambridge, Massachusetts, will require area gas pumps to post stickers warning of the harms of climate change, becoming the first US city to implement such a mandate, The Guardian reported. The Guardian reported Friday Cambridge will require all gas pumps in the city to display bright, yellow stickers that say “burning gasoline, diesel, and ethanol has major consequences on human health and the environment including contributing to climate change.” The stickers are intended to “remind drivers to think about climate change and hopefully consider non-polluting options,” a city spokesperson told the outlet…”

Greta Thunberg, Twitter

Royal Dutch Shell’s Prelude floating facility has struggled to deliver income.
Royal Dutch Shell Australia/Reuters

2020 Was One of the Worst-Ever Years for Oil Write-Downs. Disruption in the oil patch continues to accelerate, as outlined at The Wall Street Journal (paywall):The pandemic has triggered the largest revision to the value of the oil industry’s assets in at least a decade, as companies sour on costly projects amid the prospect of low prices for years. Oil-and-gas companies in North America and Europe wrote down roughly $145 billion combined in the first three quarters of 2020, the most for that nine-month period since at least 2010, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. That total significantly surpassed write-downs taken over the same periods in 2015 and 2016, during the last oil bust, and is equivalent to roughly 10% of the companies’ collective market value…”

Zack Labe, Twitter


The Climate Apocalypse is Now, and It’s Happening to You. I generally don’t buy into the booming climate gloom and doom narrative – there will be more disruption (it’s happening now) but there remains incentive to lower emissions (rapidly) and avoid worst-case warming scenarios. That said, in the spirit of transparency, here’s a clip from (paywall): “…Pretty much everyone (even oil companies, but not the president) now understands that burning fossil fuels sends gases into the atmosphere and increases global temperatures. In recent years, climate science has gotten better at attribution, at figuring out more precisely how much of a hurricane, wildfire, or drought was caused by that warming and those gases. “We can see impacts on things that people care about, and that’s leading us to shorter timescales and more concrete examples,” Furlow says. “The science enables us to attribute some things more or less to climate than just to ongoing trends, and to parse the way those things interact…”