Tracking Inversions, Not Snowstorms

Truth be told, I have an aversion to inversions. They annoy meteorologists and anyone else hoping to glimpse a little blue sky. Normally temperatures cool with altitude, but when the sun is low in the sky, feeble and ineffective, morning fog has a tendency to linger in December. It’s warmer a mile overhead than it is at ground level. Warm air rises, cold air sinks, the result is persistent gray, until a storm, frontal passage or stiff breeze can bring some of that dry, mild air aloft down to the

That should happen today, with a good chance of spying the sun much of this week. If so, temperatures should (in theory) surge into the 40s each day, and 50F isn’t out of the question south of MSP Wednesday.

Old Man Winter appears to be socially-distancing. Although a few puffs of colder air are likely (starting this upcoming weekend) our weather pattern won’t favor big snows anytime soon. Flurries arrive Friday, but this will be a snow event for Chicago.

I hear winter is coming. Just not sure when.

File photo: Paul Douglas.

Not Excited About Friday Snow Just Yet. Here is the 12z Monday ECMWF solution, showing a period of light snow or flurries Friday, but the focus on the moisture remaining south and east of Minnesota. Map credit: WSI.

Strong Warm Temperature Trend in December. Dr. Mark Seeley connects the dots in the most recent edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: ” We should not be surprised that December is bringing us warmer than normal temperatures. Since the new millennium (2000) 70 percent of Decembers have been warmer than normal, including the last six consecutive years based on statewide average temperature. This is a remarkable strong trend. In fact eleven of the warmest Decembers in state history (back to 1895) have occurred since the year 2001, including the warmest December in history in 2015 which averaged nearly 12°F warmer than normal. If the NOAA climate outlook for this December holds up we will record a month that is 4 to 6 degrees F warmer than normal and be the seventh consecutive warm December…”

December 13, 2015 file image: Paul Douglas.

Risk of Seeing the Sun Today? Winds pick up a little today, which may provide enough mixing to bring drier, milder air to the surface with a threat of spying the sun. If we pick up a few hours of sunlight daytime highs should top 40F in the metro area.

Another Relatively Mild Week – Back to Average This Weekend. Not sure about 50F on Wednesday (NOAA NDFD forecast above) but if the sun is out all day and we have good mixing of the atmosphere, with no snow left on the ground it’s a distinct possibility. Temperatures cool off closer to average by the weekend.

Chilly Slaps – But Nothing Polar Yet. Both ECMWF (above) and GFS (below) keep us relatively mild for another 10-14 days, before a shot of colder-than-average air a few days before Christmas, highlighted by the GFS solution. I’m not so sure (about the cold slap). The persistence of a Pacific signal, in spite of a La Nina cold phase, is impressive. Graphics: WeatherBell.

About That Pacific Signal. GFS keeps trying to cool things down before Christmas, only to provide a solution the next day showing continued westerly winds from the Pacific, suggesting average or above average temperatures for much of the USA. I still don’t see any prolonged spells of colder than normal weather through late December, although at some point our luck (?) will probably run out.

The Long-Lasting Mental Health Effects of Wildfires. Smoke and poor air quality is only the beginning, reports Outside Online: “…But trauma is not always quantifiable; it manifests in myriad ways that are uncountable and untracked by official tallies, and unlike the immediate damage, it unfolds over time. A fire’s effect on a community is like the ripples of a stone dropped in water, says Erika Felix, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) and a licensed psychologist who specializes in working with survivors of traumatic events. The most severe disturbances happen at the impact site, but that causes smaller ripples far from the point of impact. “There’s a subset of people who experience the most trauma and loss, then people with moderate and low levels,” she says. But there are exceptions; emotional weight affects everyone differently...”

China Vows to Beef Up Weather Modification Capabilities. Thomson Reuters Foundation reports: “China wants to boost its ability to modify the weather and will extend an artificial rain and snow programme to cover at least 5.5 million square kilometres of land by 2025, the country’s cabinet said late on Wednesday. The State Council said in policy guidelines that it would ensure that its weather modification capabilities would reach an “advanced” level by 2035, and would focus on revitalising rural regions, restoring ecosystems and minimising losses from natural disasters. China has frequently made use of cloud seeding technologies to relieve droughts or clear the air ahead of major international events. It has also been building a weather modification system in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, Asia’s biggest freshwater reserve, with the aim of pumping large quantities of silver iodide into the clouds in a bid to increase rainfall…”

Shelf cloud file image from July 8, 2020: Paul Douglas.

California’s Trillion Dollar Mega-Disaster No One is Talking About. From drought and historic wildfires to biblical floods? The extremes are becoming more extreme, and a post at ABC News details one weather scenario few are talking about: “Disasters typically associated with the West Coast include devastating earthquakes and out-of-control wildfires, but there’s an epic disaster that could be far worse than both — and it could happen at any point. Officials and experts call it the “ARkStorm,” and it is the other “big one” few are talking about. With California’s 2020 rainy season now underway, imagine almost a month of drenching storms along the entire West Coast. The state would be swallowed in 10 to 20 feet of rain. At up to 200 inches in some places, floods would hit nearly every major population center in the state…”

Image credit: United States Geological Survey

Hurricane Hunters Reflect on Historic Season. WWL-TV in New Orleans has the story; here’s an excerpt: “...Looking back on the historic season, Smithies said the hardest part was knowing just how close to home some storms were hitting. “We have everyone living from New Orleans to Biloxi to Mobile so we are constantly away flying storms either out of home station or flying them out of other places. To have so much of the activity threatening home for us was tough this year,” said Smithies.  “How did you cope with so many storms so close to home this year?,” asked Dudley.   “I hate to use the word compartmentalize but it’s part of what we have to do,” said Smithies. “I mean duty calls and our mission is extremely important. We know that so we have to just prepare our families and homes the best we can and hope that everything is all good when we come home...”

Should Electric Car Chargers Be Installed at Gas Stations. Sounds like a logical transition to me. Here’s an excerpt from InsideEVs: “…Would charging at gas stations really be so bad? After all, there are plenty of them around, they’re widely distributed, and by definition they’re located conveniently for drivers. For years now, they’ve been earning their profits on soda and chips, not on gasoline, so their owners shouldn’t care much whether it’s ethyl or electrons that brings in the customers. The movement to electrify gas stations is already well underway in Europe. BP’s UK-based charging network subsidiary Chargemaster already has DC fast chargers up and running at several retail sites, and the company plans to roll out 400 ultra-fast chargers at BP sites across the UK by the end of 2021. Total and Shell are also moving aggressively into the EV charging space. In June, Germany announced that it would require all of the country’s 14,000 or so gas stations to add EV charging stations...”

Photo credit: “Shell is beginning to install EV chargers at some of their gas stations across Europe (Source: Shell UK).

Why Our Minds Can’t Make Sense of COVID-19’s Enormous Death Toll. National Geographic provides perspective and biological lessons; here’s a clip: “…Ultimately, our biology is working against us. Researchers say our brains aren’t wired to make sense of big numbers. We’re also trying to digest coronavirus death tolls amid a sea of other worries, including economic uncertainty, civil unrest, wildfires and hurricanes, geopolitical strife, election tensions, and unprecedented shifts in how we work, shop, socialize, and educate our children. “The whole country is depressed,” says Elke Weber, a Princeton University cognitive psychologist. “If you’re already stressed out, the 200,000 statistic becomes just another thing.” But experts say there are ways to absorb and cope with the news without feeling overwhelmed or apathetic…”

File image: Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line. Looks like I’ll be at the back of the line – which is fine with me. Check out the interactive vaccine calculator to see how quickly you may get a shot, courtesy of the New York Times (paywall): “A vaccine may be around the corner, but how long will it be until you get the shot? Health officials are considering vaccine timelines that give some Americans priority over others. If you’re a healthy American, you may wait many months for your turn. To put this in perspective, we worked with the Surgo Foundation and Ariadne Labs using their vaccine tool to calculate the number of people who will need a vaccine in each state and county — and where you might fit in that line…”

The Hair-Raising, Record-Setting Race to 331 MPH. Good grief. Impressed and slightly horrified. (paywall) has the details: “…After the satellite data from the onboard GPS system had been analyzed—the devices tracked two runs in opposite directions and calculated the average—Webb’s last dash came in at a staggering 331.15 mph. The first run speed was 301.07 mph, making the final verified average 316.11 miles per hour, handily beating both the Koenigsegg and the Bugatti records and cracking the metric milestone of 500 kilometers per hour just for good measure. In addition, the morning’s effort garnered records for the fastest flying mile on a public road (313.12 mph) and the highest speed achieved on a public road (331.15 mph). For Guinness to certify the achievement, the defacto keeper of world records sends two sanctioned witnesses and stipulates a variety of criteria, including production-vehicle specifications, the use of street tires and non-race fuel, and the averaged runs, to account for wind and road-grade factors that might favor a particular direction of travel...”

Photo credit: “The $1.6 million SSC Tuatara hypercar was designed with a deliberate eye to setting the world record for fastest production car.” Photograph: James Lipman/SSC North America.

Monoliths in California, Utah and Romania Aren’t Gifts Real Aliens Might Send to Earth. Food for thought from an Op-Ed at NBC News; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…My point is, it hardly makes sense for aliens to send us inert hunks of riveted metal that have no purpose other than to puzzle the recipients. Such monoliths have little use beyond tying up your horse. Sending high-tech devices — phasers, communicators or tricorders, to name some iconic hardware from “Star Trek” — feels like a more practical present. And while it’s possible the aliens would offer us such devices, it seems improbable. Any society advanced enough to make an interstellar porch drop is going to be at a technological level that dwarfs ours. Bequeathing humanity sophisticated alien hardware would be akin to you going back in time two millennia and handing Julius Caesar your iPhone. Impressive, but useless…”

Image credit: “Monoliths found in California, Utah and Romania.” Chelsea Stahl / NBC News.

Thunder-Shadow? An old high school buddy living in North Carolina, John Shelton, sent me this photo (nice palm trees – thanks for rubbing it in) and all I can think of is the sun setting behind a towering cumulus congestus or cumulonimbus providing the sharp cut-off. It is a bit baffling though and confidence levels are lower than usual.

34 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

30 F. average high on December 7.

42 F. high on December 7, 2019.

December 8, 1995: A strong low pressure system passes across Northern Minnesota, producing considerable snowfall in advance of an intense cold front. Snowfall of five to eight inches was common with eight inches recorded at New London and Alexandria. The most snow reported was 9.6 inches in Mound. The Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport received 7.1 inches. The cold front moved through by late morning on the 8th as temperatures dropped 20 degrees within an hour of the frontal passage. Strong northwest winds of 20 to 40 mph immediately behind the front resulted in severe blowing and drifting and white-out conditions in many areas. Over 150 schools closed early or cancelled classes. Many businesses closed early as well. The Governor ordered state offices closed at noon on the 8th, sending thousands of state employees home. Over 100 outbound flights were cancelled at the Twin Cities International Airport, but the airport remained open.

December 8, 1876: The term ‘Blizzard’ is first used in the government publication ‘Monthly Weather Review.’

December 8, 1804: John Sayer at the Snake River Fir Trading Post near present day Pine City mentions: ‘Cold day. Thermometer 10 degrees below freezing.’ Lewis and Clark also noted this cold wave at their winter quarters in Ft. Mandan, North Dakota near present day Bismarck.

TUESDAY: Gray foggy start, then some sun. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 42

WEDNESDAY: Sunny, relatively mild. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 31. High: 47

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 33. High: 43

FRIDAY: Light snow or flurries. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 33. High: 37

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy and brisk. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 26. High: near 30

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, a bit milder. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 18. High: 35

MONDAY: Blue sky, another mild Pacific puff. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 45

Climate Stories…

Exxon Holds Back on Technology That Could Slow Climate Change. Bloomberg Green reports; here’s an excerpt: “…If you’re going to ask somebody to actually do carbon capture, oil companies have all the experience,” says David Use, a former Chevron Corp. engineer who purchased some of the gases from LaBarge for use at the Rangely oil field, about 200 miles south, in Colorado. “They’ve got the pocketbooks and the credentials to do the big projects.” And therein lies the paradox. As Exxon and its peers look into a carbon-constrained future, CCS seems to offer a golden opportunity. Oil companies could develop a tool  considered crucial by no less than the scientists with the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But in the absence of strong government support or regulation, the oil industry might not have the will to invest enough. Even if Exxon one day completes its plans in Wyoming, the current delay shows that urgent climate projects can sometimes become expendable in a crunch…”

How Climate Change Could Spark the Next Home Mortgage Disaster. POLITICO runs through the scenarios that could cause the house of cards to come tumbling down: “…But pricing climate change into mortgage terms would wreak havoc in the real estate market — a hit that, while protective of taxpayers in the long run, runs counter to the missions of the relevant agencies. Turning off the mortgage spigot in communities affected by climate change would disproportionately affect people of color, whose neighborhoods are more likely to be plagued by violent weather. The result, many current and former federal housing officials acknowledge, is a peculiar kind of stasis — a crisis that everyone sees coming but no one feels empowered to prevent, even as banks and investors grow far savvier about assessing climate risk...”

What if Remote Work is our Best Hope to Stop Climate Catastrophe. It’s part of the solution, but doubt it is THE solution. Here’s a clip from Quartz: “…With more people working from home, it’s also possible to cut down on commercial sources of electricity. Since the beginning of the pandemic in the US, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago has tracked nationwide electricity usage. According to their data, between April and May, after a number of states issued stay-at-home orders, electricity consumption dropped an average of 6-7% over that two-month period compared to pre-pandemic levels. While the Energy Policy Institute noted that there was an increase in residential power, they attributed this overall dip to a “very substantial” drop in commercial and industrial sectors. Combating climate change requires an entire reworking and reimagining of how society operates. And you can split the fight into two distinct halves: figuring out how to transition the global economy off fossil fuels and understanding how to more efficiently use the energy we generate...”

Climate and COVID-19: Converging Crises. Here’s an excerpt of a post at The Lancet: “...This year’s Countdown report finds that no country is immune to avoidable loss of lives arising from widening inequalities, with every indicator in the report following a worsening trend. Climate has slipped from the top of the global agenda because of political indifference and the need to deal with the immediacies of COVID-19. 5 years on from the Paris Agreement, seizing the opportunity to refocus interests on sustainability offers the co-benefits of protecting our future health, the environment, and our planetary systems. As governments embark on economic recovery plans in the wake of COVID-19, concerns for climate change and equity are rightly focused on a green recovery. A global rapid transition to clean energy sources is needed, ending the stranglehold of fossil fuels. Decisions being made now must tackle both crises together to ensure the most effective response to each…”

Image credit: CDC.

2020 On Track To Be Second-Hottest Year Ever. Here’s an excerpt from Science Alert: “…The past six years, 2015 to 2020, are set to make up all six of the hottest years since modern records began in 1850, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its provisional 2020 State of the Global Climate report. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the 2020 report spells out “how close we are to climate catastrophe”.  “Apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are increasingly the new normal,” he said in a speech at Columbia University in New York on the state of the planet. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal. Nature always strikes back – and it is already doing so with growing force and fury…”

Graphic credit: Climate Central.

Nestle CEO: Laggard CEO’s Put The Planet and their Businesses at Risk, Says CEO Mark Schneider. Here’s an excerpt of a post from Nestle’s CEO, courtesy of “…Not all the facts are in today, but we know enough to act with a sense of urgency to address what is contributing to droughts and causing oceans to rise. Business leaders can no longer afford to be skeptical and interminably patient, waiting for every theory to be vetted or every climate model to be proven. The overall mechanism of action and direction of travel is clear. We should not expect comprehensive public policy and unanimity to do the job for us. This is a moment of truth for industry leaders. Those who choose hesitation over action will be endangering our planet and their business. Every person on earth is a shareholder in what must be a collective and international effort, and we are all served when measures to address climate change advance. Consumers care deeply about these issues as well, and if we don’t listen to them, they understandably won’t do business with us...”

Image credit: “A wind farm off the northeast coast of England. Thanks in part to a partnership with Danish energy company Ørsted, 100% of the electricity powering Nestlé U.K. now comes from wind power.” Courtesy of Ørsted.

A Start-Up’s Unusual Plan to Suck Carbon Out of the Sky. The Atlantic reports on an ambitious project: “…Stripe may now have more knowledge of the carbon-removal market than any other private company. In this era of greenwashing and sustainable everything, its program, called Stripe Climate, is one of the most compelling corporate climate initiatives now running. The term carbon removal refers to any technology that extracts carbon from the atmosphere and stores it for a long time. Trees, which inhale carbon as part of photosynthesis and lock it into wood, comprise the simplest form of carbon removal. But trees have their downsides: They take up real estate, require decades of care, and, in a disastrous wildfire, can burst into flame—and release their stored carbon back into the sky. Above all, they can store carbon for only a few centuries. To really tackle climate change, we need to ferret carbon out of the atmosphere for 1,000 years or more...”