Giving Thanks for BZ (Barry Zevan)

Everyone and everything is connected. People show up – randomly – and change the trajectory of your life. Barry Zevan and I worked together at a national cable channel in the early 80s. When a job interview request came in from Channel 11, Barry convinced me to take a chance. “You will love Minnesota! Trust me.” He was right, and had it not been for Barry’s sage advice and encouragement I have no idea where I would have wound up.

God speed, and rest in peace, my friend. You are missed.

No DQ Blizzards in sight; no giant sundaes of snow, ice: and wind. Maybe a kid’s-size scoop of sherbet
by mid-January, but nothing bitter, smelling of Siberia. A coating to an inch is possible later today; maybe 2 inches from Mankato to Albert Lea.

A glancing blow of polar air arrives next week with a day or two in the teens. Teens above zero. As long as Alaska and the west coast of Canada and the U.S. are cold and stormy, a Pacific flow will take the edge off the coldest of our cold fronts. January Lite this year? Maybe.

Image credit: Retro Weather, YouTube

Clipped Again. ECMWF guidance (above) courtesy of WeatherBell suggests a slushy coating at MSP, around half an inch, with 2-3″ amounts from Mankato to Albert Lea and Austin. NOAA’s models (below) show a coating atMSP with heavier amounts over far southern Minnesota.

Future Radar Today. 7 am and 7 pm future radar maps courtesy of Praedictix and AerisWeather.

A Mid-Month Warming Trend? Confidence levels are low because the GFS model is flip-flopping back and forth. Yesterday’s 2-week 500mb wind forecast looked colder than average, the latest outlook (above) suggests a strong (and mild) Pacific flow for much of the USA. Stay tuned…

Snowfall Data. Winter snowfall is over 25″ for the Twin Cities, to date, nearly 4″ snowier than average. Duluth’s 56.3″ is nearly 2 feet above average, to date. Maps: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Thousands Flee Coastal Towns as Country Burns. The Washington Post reports: “An Australian navy troop carrier was preparing to evacuate up to 4,000 people trapped in a remote region of Victoria state by advancing wildfires that have consumed an area almost the size of West Virginia. The situation in Mallacoota — a beach town popular with families over the holiday season — is so dire that officials spent Thursday afternoon assessing who would be capable of climbing ladders from small boats to a navy ship anchored offshore, designed to carry 300 soldiers and 23 tanks. Those unable to climb the ladders and wishing to leave will be flown out by helicopter, although heavy smoke that has reached as far as New Zealand is making flying hazardous…”

Photo credit: “Boats are pulled ashore as smoke and wildfires rage behind Lake Conjola, Australia, on Thursday.” (Robert Oerlemans/AP).

Brushfires in Australia May Get Even Worse with “Horrible Day” on Horizon. NPR reports that conditions may worsen again this weekend: “...During a news conference Thursday, the state’s premier, Gladys Berejiklian, warned that worsening conditions this coming weekend present further danger to residents and emergency responders struggling with the deadly blazes. “We don’t take these decisions lightly,” Berejiklian told reporters, noting that high temperatures, unpredictable fire activity and heavy tourism could make for a dangerous combination. “We want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday,” Berejiklian said. Citing a menacing cocktail of high temperatures and gusty winds, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that “fire dangers on Saturday will reach severe to extreme yet again across fire sites and communities that have already seen large-scale devastation…”

Image credit: “A satellite image captured Tuesday reveals the extent of some of Australia’s largest bushfires. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting “severe to extreme” fire dangers on Saturday.” Copernicus Sentinel Imagery via AP.

History Behind the Daily National Weather Service Weather Map. A fascinating read (if you’re a weather nerd), courtesy of NOAA: “…The first map was published on January 1, 1871. Given the sparse number of stations and the inexperience of the new forecasters, the initial maps were quite limited in their display. A significant change to the maps occurred on August 1, 1941. They were changed to include several different observed parameters, but the more radical change was the inclusion of “fronts” for the first time. The “Norweigan cyclone model,” developed shortly after World War I, had introduced the concept of fronts, but the U.S. did not adopt the usage for many years…”

2020 in Science: A SpaceX Bonanza, Lab-Grown Brains, and More. takes a look at what is imminent: “…In May, SpaceX launched its first batch of 60 Starlink satellites, which the company hopes to use to bathe the Earth in broadband internet. Since then the company has tossed 60 more Starlink satellites into orbit, and before the end of the decade it will add 60 more. This already makes Starlink the largest satellite constellation in history by a large margin, but the company is just getting started. In early January 2020, SpaceX will begin an even more aggressive launch schedule for its internet satellites. A few months ago, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company could do as many as 24 Starlink launches next year.This amounts to some 1,440 new satellites in orbit, which is just shy of the total number of operating satellites around Earth today. To complete its constellation, SpaceX will need roughly 12,000 satellites, but it is already drawing heat from astronomers who claim the Starlink satellites are ruining the night sky for science...”

Americans Are Moving Less. A story at Axios caught my eye: “Less than 10% of Americans moved in the past year. That’s the lowest rate since the Census Bureau began tracking domestic relocations in 1947. The record low is attributable to millennials’ ties to major tech hubs and an increase in dual-income couples. Despite a strong economy, more people are feeling locked in place. Young adults, who have historically been the most mobile, are staying put these days thanks to housing and job limitations. So are aging adults who are reluctant to (or can’t afford to) make a move. When people do move, they go to places that are very similar to where they came from, McKinsey partner Susan Lund told Axios earlier this year. Those living in cities move to other cities or suburbs, and rural dwellers usually stay rural. That means people from distressed areas aren’t finding their way into more prosperous ones, leading to sustained economic gaps between places...”

Data credit: Census 2019 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios.

Texas Preteen Gets Magnifying Glass – Sets Front Yard on Fire. Whoops! The Washington Post has the story: “Two Texas parents are now laughing and looking at some melted outdoor Christmas lights on their front lawn because of a present they gave their son. Cayden Parson, 12, asked his parents for a magnifying glass, among other things, for Christmas. Because their son loves books so much, his parents thought he would use it for reading, Nissa-Lynn Parson, 42, told The Washington Post. The former Boy Scout had another idea in mind: He wanted to see if he could burn holes in a newspaper. The boys marveled at how hot the newspaper got until wind came along, causing the lit newspaper to blow out of Ashton’s hand and onto the dry, brown Texas grass. As soon as the kids yelled about the blaze, family members rushed outside in their matching Christmas pajamas to do whatever they could to contain it…”

Photo credit: “Eight-year old Brady Parson takes in the aftermath of the fire in his family’s front yard his older brothers accidentally started.” (Nissa-Lynn Parson).

Careful with Those Apple Airpods. Here’s an excerpt from “...For one family in DeKalb County, Georgia, the shiny white AirPods proved so tantalizing that they landed a seven-year-old boy in the hospital. The youngster, who had reportedly just received the AirPods as a Christmas gift, went ahead and swallowed one of them. According to local news reports, the boy’s grandmother was watching the child while his mother was at work. The boy apparently began choking on something. The boy’s grandmother rushed the boy to the hospital where they were met by the boy’s mother. By this point, it was apparent that the boy had accidentally swallowed one of his new Apple AirPods…”

37 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

24 F average high on January 2.

26 F. high on January 2, 2019.

January 3, 1981: Arctic air visits Minnesota. Embarrass, Wannaska, and Tower all hit 38 below zero.

January 3, 1977: 14.2 inches of snow falls in Mankato.

FRIDAY: Cloudy. Coating to 1″ late PM. Winds: SW 3-8. High: 30

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, still above average. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 18. High: 32

SUNDAY: Gusty winds, peeks of sun. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 22. High: 36

MONDAY: Clouds increase, late flurries? Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 18. High: 31

TUESDAY: Colder wind, few flurries around. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: 25

WEDNESDAY: Chilled sunshine. Feels like January. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 6. High: 16

THURSDAY: Chance of snow, especially N/W of MSP. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 4. High: 27

Climate Stories…

Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia is a Scary Portent for the Future. Intelligencer asks if we’ve become numb toward natural disasters (until they show up in our back yard): “Right now, on the outskirts of a hyper modern first world megapolis, at the end of a year in which the public seemed finally to wake up to the dramatic threat from global warming, a climate disaster of unimaginable horror has been unfolding for almost two full months, and the rest of the world is hardly paying attention. The New South Wales fires have been burning since September, destroying fifteen million acres (or more than two thousand square miles) and remain almost entirely uncontrolled by the volunteer firefighting forces deployed to stop them; on November 12, greater Sydney declared an unprecedented “catastrophic” fire warning. That was six weeks ago, and the blazes are almost certain to continue burning through the end of next month, the soonest real rain might arrive…”

Climate Change in the 2010s: Decade of Fires, Floods and Scorching Heat. The Washington Post has an expansive multimedia recap of a rough decade of climate volatility and weather disruption. Definitely worth a look.

Photo credit: Mason Trinca for The Washington Post.

Republicans Came to the Table on Climate This Year. Here’s the intro of an Op-Ed at TheHill: “In the whirlwind that is our current political environment, you might have missed one particular gust that swept through Congress this year: elected Republicans have shifted dramatically on climate change. The change is due in part to encouragement from conservative voters. Today, we see Republicans in Congress getting engaged on the issue, bringing to the table conservative solutions that protect hardworking Americans and ensure prosperity in our economy. This year, freshman Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told the Washington Examiner, “I’m not afraid to talk about climate change. … We’re obviously pumping more CO2 into the air, and there’s a thing called the greenhouse effect.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) agrees, saying, “I’m a Republican who believes the greenhouse gas effect is real, that climate change is being affected by manmade behavior…”

Big Oil Asks Government to Protect Its Texas Facilities from Climate Change. Possibly the most ironic headline ever written by AP and CBS News: “As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority: to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it. The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity…”

“Flight Shame” Didn’t Actually Make Us Fly Any Less. Here’s a clip from a post at Quartz: “…But there’s a lot to cancel out. One economy passenger on one return flight from London to New York puts an extra 1.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the air—about as much as taking a round-trip 15-mile commute every day for a year in a fuel-efficient car. As to whether or not those carbon offsetting schemes are any good—well, it depends. On the one hand, they allow more flexibility: As former Quartz reporter Zoe Schlanger writes, “countries can swap emissions and pay to meet their climate goals, and funding can flow to halt deforestation where it’s most needed.” But they’re hard to hold to account. Trees can get cut down. Credits may get counted twice. Solar panels can break. Buying carbon credits is better than doing nothing, as airlines are quick to note, but it’s still far from perfect...”

Image credit: Alan Diaz, AP.

Australia’s Angry Summer: This is What Climate Change Looks Like. Scientific American reports: “…The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of our winter). Fires have so far claimed nine lives, including two firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. It is too early to tell what the toll on our wildlife has been, but early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before we have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia…”

Climate Solutions: Technologies to Slow Climate Change. EcoWatch has a list of promising technologies that can slow the rate of CO2 emissions: “…Battery storage will be critical,” said Joao Gouveia, a senior fellow at Project Drawdown, a research organization that analyzes climate solutions. “It will allow the integration of more and more renewable tech. We cannot have 70 percent [of renewable energy by 2050] coming from wind and solar if we don’t apply battery storage systems.” Holding batteries back are aging electricity grids and costs that, despite falling each year, remain high. But electric vehicles could act as a storage system, said Gouveia, with owners buying electricity at night to charge their cars and selling it to the grid when demand is high and cars are parked, idle, during the day. “We are finding new lithium reserves because this is a tech for both markets, so we’re innovating more and more...”

Climate Change Investing Catches on With Millennials Who Believe It’s Pressing – and Profitable. Here’s an excerpt from a post at “Investing for climate change had been a niche on Wall Street, often generating sub-par returns, but in the coming decade it is expected to become a much broader and more critical investment strategy, driven by a new generation of investors. The millennial investor is the most interested in impact investing, with nearly 90% setting it as a first investment criteria, in an investor survey, according to Bank of America Securities. That contrasts with just under half of baby boomers, who invest with a similar top priority on ESG or environmental, social and governance criteria…”

Greta Thunberg and Mass Protests Defined the Year in Climate Change. NBC News reports: “Most climate scientists will be quick to say that 2019 was the year that Greta Thunberg truly became a force to be reckoned with. The 16-year-old Swedish activist staged solo “Fridays for Future” school strikes that triggered a global phenomenon drawing millions of people into the streets to protest climate inaction. The teen has since become the face of that newly energized climate movement and was recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. “She represents the best of humanity,” said Benjamin Houlton, a professor of global environmental studies at the University of California, Davis. “She frightens those in power right now because she has a very clear message and she’ll continue to be an important crusader...”

Image credit: “The influence of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg helped launch a global movement of climate action.” Chelsea Stahl / NBC News.