Average annual global horizontal solar irradiance
NREL (https://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html)

Fairly Mellow Into Mid-January

”Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” wrote Scottish novelist James M. Barrie. Although not as sunny as the southwestern USA, Minnesota experiences a preponderance of sunny weather from midwinter into early autumn.

We’ve turned a corner: November and December are the cloudiest months of the year. With fresh bursts of chilled (dry) Canadian air, January tends to be sunnier – and seeing a blue sky draped overhead removes some of the sting.

By the way, we’ve picked up 10 minutes of additional daylight since the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Pacific-tempered warmth dominates our weather into mid-January with temperatures running 5-15F above average. No noteworthy storms in sight. We’ll see a few more days above freezing, but I don’t expect much snow loss over the next 2 weeks.

All weather models bring a surge of frigid air into Minnesota after January 15. I see a few nights below zero, but probably not record-breaking.

Just a reminder that it’s January in Minnesota.

A Decorative Snowfall. Still 8” of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities as of Tuesday morning, and even though we’ll see a few more days with daytime highs above 32F by late next week I don’t see us losing too much snowpack in the coming 10-12 days. Today’s disturbance brushes far southwestern Minnesota with a whopping inch or two of power.

In Spite of the Gray – Still 5-20F above average. The map above shows the predicted departure from normal high temperatures across the state, as much as 15-18F warmer than average across northern Minnesota.

Forecast Challenge: Fog and Low Clouds. With unusually light winds in the forecast later this week any overnight (ice) fogs may be slow to dissipate – the sun is still too low in the sky to burn away low clouds and lazy clouds (fog). In spite of generous cloudcover temperatures may still run 5-10F above average into the weekend.

ECMWF for the Twin Cities

Reality Readjustment After January 16. Hardly record-breaking, but cold enough to get your attention by the third week of January, with a few nights in a row potentially below zero.

The American model projection showing the polar vortex shifting southward and elongating across the northeast Atlantic and Northern Europe, extending toward Asia on Jan. 7.

The Polar Vortex is Splitting in Two, Which May Lead to Weeks of Wild Winter Weather. Especially on the East Coast and New England, I might add. Capital Weather Gang has a good explainer: “A dramatic spike in temperatures is occurring at high altitudes above the North Pole, where the air is thin and typically frigid. Known as a sudden stratospheric warming event, experts say it’s likely to have potentially significant repercussions for winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere for weeks to possibly months. This unusually strong event may have profound influences on the weather in the United States and Europe, possibly increasing the potential for paralyzing snowstorms and punishing blasts of Arctic air, with the odds of the most severe cold outbreaks highest in Northern Europe...”

Coldest Air of a Not-So-Cold Winter. In spite of a few arctic slaps from the latter half of January into February I would still wager a stale bagel that overall winter temperatures will trend milder than average, with a persistent Pacific signal into March or April. Confidence levels are (always) low trying to look that far out, but I’m still leaning in a (milder than average) direction.

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…”

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...”

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 WIRED.com (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...”

Fires and Smoke Engulf Southeastern Australia on January 4, 2020.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview

Amazing Earth: Satellite Images from 2020. NASA has a link to some pretty incredible imagery; here’s an excerpt of their post: “In the vastness of the universe, the life-bringing beauty of our home planet shines bright. During this tumultuous year, our satellites captured some pockets of peace, while documenting data and striking visuals of unprecedented natural disasters. As 2020 comes to a close, we’re diving into some of the devastation, wonders, and anomalies this year had to offer. NASA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites and instruments on the International Space Station unravel the complexities of the blue marble from a cosmic vantage point. These robotic scientists orbit our globe constantly, monitoring and notating changes, providing crucial information to researchers here on the ground. Take a glance at 2020 through the lens of NASA satellites…”

General Electric’s Haliade-X wind turbine at Rotterdam Harbor in the Netherlands.
Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

A Monster Wind Turbine is Upending an Industry. A renewable energy arms race? A story at The New York Times (paywall) caught my eye: “Twirling above a strip of land at the mouth of Rotterdam’s harbor is a wind turbine so large it is difficult to photograph. The turning diameter of its rotor is longer than two American football fields end to end. Later models will be taller than any building on the mainland of Western Europe. Packed with sensors gathering data on wind speeds, electricity output and stresses on its components, the giant whirling machine in the Netherlands is a test model for a new series of giant offshore wind turbines planned by General Electric. When assembled in arrays, the wind machines have the potential to power cities, supplanting the emissions-spewing coal- or natural gas-fired plants that form the backbones of many electric systems today...”

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 WIRED.com (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...”

Nice view
Scott Kelly, NASA ISS

Japanese Researchers Hope to Launch Satellite Made of Wood. At first I thought this was an Onion headline, and then I realized that it’s real. Big Think explains the rationale: “NASA is currently tracking over 500,000 pieces of satellite debris circling the Earth. These bits of mostly aluminum junk whip around the planet as fast as 17,500 mph and constitute a floating minefield that active and manned space vehicles have to find their way through without being struck, or worse, punctured. And those are just the bits large enough to be tracked—those bigger than a marble. There are many more too small to keep an eye on. And the situation is getting worse, with projects such as SpaceX’s estimated 42,000 satellites or Amazon’s Kuiper project. The wood satellites being developed won’t do much to solve that problem. However, they will help out with another one: what happens to space debris when its orbit decays and it falls back to Earth? We’ve been lucky so far…”


20 Things That Went Strangely, Wonderfully Right in 2020. FORTUNE.com has an interesting list of things to be thankful for last year; here’s a clip: “…13. It happened: the octogenarian sex symbol. In the plague year, there seemed to be nothing that slowed Dr. Anthony Fauci down—not the pressure of being the public face in the war on COVID-19, not being caught in the political crossfire, and apparently not turning 80, which the good doctor did on Christmas Eve. A September poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 68% of Americans have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of faith in Dr. Fauci to provide reliable information about the coronavirus—making him a rare entity in the pandemic era: somebody trusted by the vast majority of the country. But it was “Saturday Night Live” that captured the fullness of Fauciphilia in its Dec. 12 “cold open...”

“I won’t Do That Again…”
Reddit and Wellthatsucks

When You Live in Svalbard, Norway and Forget to Close the Window to the Home Office. Image courtesy of Wellthatsucks and Reddit. Wow.

34 F. Twin Cities high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

24 F. average high on January 5.

38 F. high on January 5, 2019.

January 6, 1942: The temperature rises from 32 below zero to 41 above in 24 hours in Pipestone.

WEDNESDAY: Gray, light snow far southwest Minnesota. Winds: E 5-10. High: 31

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, a brighter day. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 21. High: near 30

FRIDAY: Patchy clouds and fog. Winds: NW 3-8. Wake-up: 19. High: 28

SATURDAY: Cloudy skies, light winds. Winds: NW 3-8. Wake-up: 21. High: 29

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 22. High: 30

MONDAY: Cloudy, few flakes in the air. Winds: S 3-8. Wake-up: 20. High: 27

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 22. High: 30

Climate Stories…

2020 Was a Year of Climate Extremes. What Can We Expect in 2021? My (very strong) hunch is that 2020 will go down in the books as the warmest year on record, warmer than 2016. We shall see. Here’s an excerpt from TIME.com: “…A record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season landed a double blow of two hugely destructive storms in Central America. Long-running droughts have destroyed agricultural output and helped to push millions into hunger in Zimbabwe and Madagascar. A super-cyclone unleashed massive floods on India and Bangladesh. And overall, 2020 may end up the hottest year on record—despite a La Niña event, the ocean-atmospheric phenomenon which normally temporarily cools things down. Though it’s historically been difficult to say if single weather events were directly caused by climate change, scientists have proven that many of the events that took place in 2020 would have been far less likely, or even impossible, without changes to the climate that are being driven by the warming of the Earth…”

Paul Douglas

Study: Warming Already Baked-in Will Blow Past Climate Goals. Associated Press reports: “The amount of baked-in global warming, from carbon pollution already in the air, is enough to blow past international agreed upon goals to limit climate change, a new study finds. But it’s not game over because, while that amount of warming may be inevitable, it can be delayed for centuries if the world quickly stops emitting extra greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, the study’s authors say. For decades, scientists have talked about so-called “committed warming” or the increase in future temperature based on past carbon dioxide emissions that stay in the atmosphere for well over a century. It’s like the distance a speeding car travels after the brakes are applied…”

Tim McCabe USDA

Biden Plan Looks for Buy-in From Farmers Who Are Often Skeptical About Global Warming. InsideClimate News has the post; here’s the intro: “When the incoming Biden administration released its policy roadmap in November, it was clear that tackling climate change would be a top priority and agriculture will be a key part of a broad, cross-agency effort. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the administration said, “has not historically received the sustained political attention of other agencies that play a role in climate policy.” But it would become “a linchpin of the next Administration’s climate strategy.” The incoming administration’s clear focus on climate change was remarkable. That it would enlist the country’s farms and farmers—who are largely skeptical of climate change—in the battle was even more so...”

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...”

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…”

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…”

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…”