Next 2-5 Days a Far Cry From Last Year

At the risk of being trite and cliche (I’m not above that) what a difference a year makes! One year ago today Minnesota was getting punched by the dreaded “Polar Vortex”. Exactly a year ago MSP woke up to -25F, with a “high” of -1F. January 30, 2019 was the coldest day, with a seizure-inducing -28F low and a Fairbanks-friendly daytime high of -13F. Wind chills fell to 50 below as the state endured some of the
coldest readings since the 1990s.

Climate scientists tell us we’ll still see cold outbreaks from time to time, but the intensity and duration of subzero cold will be a shadow of what it was as recently as the 1970s. We’ll see more warm blips, fewer extended cold ruts.

Temperatures slowly mellow in the coming days, with 40s possible by Super Bowl Sunday. 7 inches of snow on the ground will act as an atmospheric brake, limiting how high the mercury can go. But February definitely starts on a mild note.

No big storms, just a coating to an inch of flakes Friday. More of a decorative snowfall.

Gloomy January 2020. Confirming what we all suspected, here’s an excerpt from The Minnesota DNR: “So far though January 27, January 2020 has had the least amount of solar radiation for a January since solar radiation records began at the U of M St. Paul Campus Climate Observatory in 1963. January 22-28, 2020 has been cloudy for seven consecutive days. The last time there was a stretch of seven straight days of completely cloudy conditions was in October 2018. There’s been longer stretches in the past. The longest record of consecutive days with zero minutes of sunshine is fifteen days from October 30, 1972 to November 13, 1972. The 1972 streak is remarkable that on November 14 there was less than an hour of sunshine, then two more days of zero minutes of sunshine! The sunshine recorder was at the Twin Cities International Airport before June 1996 and moved to Chanhassen after that. The sunshine recorder has since been discontinued...”

Grand Forks Readies For What May Be a “Top Five Flood”. The Grand Forks Herald has the story; here’s a clip: “…According to National Weather Service data Grasser presented to Council members on Monday, there is an approximately 80% chance that floodwaters will exceed 46 feet — the threshold for “major” flooding — this spring. There is a roughly 1.5% chance they’ll rise above 60 feet, which is the height of the city’s levee system. Those calculations were based on conditions the service recorded on Jan. 20. The fall of 2019 was a particularly wet one, and that generally indicates a wet spring. President Donald Trump granted North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s December request for a disaster declaration in the state. That declaration frees up Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to help cities like Grand Forks fix up infrastructure damaged by fall storms and the ensuing spring floods...”

Warming Trend Into Sunday. Low 40s on the second day of February. Almost anywhere else in the USA people would cringe and feel a bit cheated. Minnesota? Bring it on – sweet relief! By this weekend temperatures should be 10-20F warmer than average, statewide. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Diverging Models. NOAA’s GFS model (below) cools us off faster than ECMWF (top) next week. There’s little doubt we’ll cool down, but I’m putting more weight on the European model, expecting more of a glancing blow of arctic air. Graphics above: WeatherBell.

Warming Up Again Mid-February? The same GFS model that cools us down (faster/further) next week warms up most of the USA by mid-February as prevailing winds blow from the Pacific – the coldest air pulling northward across Hudson Bay.

Walk Like a Penguin. Not an Egyptian, but a penguin, to reduce the risk of a dangerous fall on ice or snow. Graphic above courtesy of Tablet Infographics.

GM to Invest $2 Billion, Create 2,200 Jobs at Detroit-Hamtramck Plant. A story at Crain’s Detroit Business caught my eye: “General Motors Co. will start making the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle shortly after it starts making an all-electric pickup at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant late next year. The Detroit-based automaker announced the production plan Monday morning as part of its planned $2.2 billion investment in the factory, which had been slated for closure prior to last year’s negotiations with the UAW. Cruise, based in San Francisco, showed the Origin for the first time last week. But the company’s first autonomous ride-hailing offerings will use the Chevrolet Bolt-based third-generation autonomous vehicle, which still has a steering wheel and brake pedals…”

Photo credit: Steve Fecht for General Motors Co. “General Motors Co. President Mark Reuss on Monday announces a $2.2 billion investment at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant to produce a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs.”

University of Missouri Tracking Students. George Orwell would be proud. Here’s an excerpt from “New students at the University of Missouri will be required to participate in a tracking program designed to measure and enforce class attendance, according to a new report from The Kansas City Star. Despite privacy concerns, officials defended the decision as one to the benefit of students, as the school’s athletics department has already been using the same app, SpotterEdu, to track certain student-athletes. While the app ensures that students are in the classroom during class times, it claims it does not track students’ locations anywhere else...”

If NFL Quarterbacks Were Paid by the Hour. I thought this was an interesting post, courtesy of Mental Floss. Here’s a clip: “…When it comes to playtime earnings, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo beat Tom Brady and every other quarterback by millions—he landed in first place with an average of more than $27.6 million per hour on the field. Compared to Garoppolo, the $8.8 million of runner-up Aaron Rodgers practically seems like pocket change. Most of the other quarterbacks earn somewhere between $1 million and $4 million per hour of playtime….”

Mercedes Truck Sets New Altitude Record. Did the drivers need supplemental oxygen? Jalopnik has the post; here are a couple of excerpts: “Wheeled vehicles can achieve near-airplane-like levels of altitude, though, if they can find ground high enough. And that’s just what a Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 5023 truck did, driving nearly 21,962 feet above sea level….In case you’re unfamiliar with Unimogs, they’re Mercedes-Benz line of tough, go-anywhere trucks with flexible ladder-frame chassis and portal axles that they’ve been making since 1948…Two of these Unimogs were being used on the highest volcano in the world, the Ojos de Salado in Chile to install emergency radio units at high-altitude camps up on the volcano…”

Image credit: Mercedes Benz.

22 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

25 F. average high on January 28.

13 F. high on January 28, 2019.

January 29, 1977: Due to the extreme cold, the St. Paul Winter Carnival is held indoors for the first time.

Say What? How on Earth are coyotes getting into Central Park, in downtown Manhattan, surrounded by asphalt, high-rise buildings and water on all sides. This is a mystery to me…

WEDNESDAY: Lingering clouds, flakes. Winds: SE 3-8. High: 25

THURSDAY: What else? Overcast, few flurries. Winds: S 3-8. Wake-up: 18. High: 28

FRIDAY: Milder. Coating to 1″ snow possible. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 24. High: 32

SATURDAY: Skies brighten. Melting icicles. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 36

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun. Hints of March. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 42

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, stiff breeze. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 32. High: 35

TUESDAY: Colder wind, light snow or flurries. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 25. High: 29

Climate Stories…

The Pacific Ocean is So Acidic That It’s Dissolving Dungeness Crabs’ Shells. has the story: “The Pacific Ocean is becoming more acidic, and the cash-crabs that live in its coastal waters are some of its first inhabitants to feel its effects. The Dungeness crab is vital to commercial fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, but lower pH levels in its habitat are dissolving parts of its shell and damaging its sensory organs, a new study found. Their injuries could impact coastal economies and forebode the obstacles in a changing sea. And while the results aren’t unexpected, the study’s authors said the damage to the crabs is premature: The acidity wasn’t predicted to damage the crabs this quickly…”

File photo: NOAA.

Oh No, Not The Wine: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Climate change could dramatically shrink the world’s wine-growing regions and lead to a worldwide shortage of wine, new research shows. A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that a rise of just 2 degrees C by 2100 could make 56 percent of the world’s wine-growing regions unsuitable for growing grapes, while a rise of 4 degrees C would lead to an 85 percent loss. Switching up grape crops to include more sustainable varietals, the author notes, could help mitigate some of this loss. “In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture, because these grapes are so climate-sensitive,” study co-author Benjamin Cook told USA Today.” (USA Today, The Hill, The Guardian, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Young Conservatives Want Climate Action. Here’s the intro to a post at republicEn: “According to a new survey issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 80 percent of voters between the ages of 18 to 29 say that global warming is “a major threat to human life on earth.” 82 percent of women and 76 percent of men call climate change a “major threat.” “While the boomers are still trying to decide whether or not scientists can be trusted, our kids are saying, ‘Save the planet,” said Shane Bemis, the Republican mayor of Gresham, Oregon and co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ youth engagement efforts. This information comes at a time when Republican House leadership, in response to pressure from the rising generation of voters, is pulling together a package of bipartisan bills that would have some impact on climate change...”

Germany Rejected Nuclear Power – and Deadly Emissions Spiked. (paywall) has a cautionary tale: “…To uncover the hidden costs of denuclearizing Germany, economists used machine learning to analyze reams of data gathered between 2011 and 2017. The researchers, based at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, and Carnegie Mellon University, found that nuclear power was mostly replaced with power from coal plants, which led to the release of an additional 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about a 5 percent increase in emissions. More distressingly, the researchers estimated that burning more coal led to local increases in particle pollution and sulfur dioxide and likely killed an additional 1,100 people per year from respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses...”

The Rainfall Map That Can Tell If Your Home is Doomed. Bloomberg Green has a post that made me do a double-take: “What would happen if we all had clear information about current and future flood risks to our properties? First Street Foundation wants to answer that question. The climate and tech non-profit is building up-to-date flood maps to estimate what could happen to homes and businesses in an era of rising sea levels and more frequent, stronger storms. The New York-based foundation says the free-to-use maps are based mostly on open source data and will eventually be granular enough to cover every property in the U.S. Through its recently announced Flood Lab project the foundation is now partnering with researchers from eight top universities—including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School—to analyze the data for broader social and financial impacts…”

Coastal Flooding Risk. Pondering an ocean-front purchase? Check out the (free) online tool from which helps to quantify risk. Minnesota’s lakes are looking better with every passing day.

With 130-Mile Coast, New Jersey Marks a First in Climate Change Fight. Other states will catch on quickly. Here’s the intro to a New York Times story: “New Jersey will become the first state to require that builders take into account the impact of climate change, including rising sea levels, in order to win government approval for projects, Gov. Philip D. Murphy plans to announce on Monday. The move by Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, is part of a widening effort by states to use regulations to address worsening climate conditions and to aggressively counteract the Trump administration’s push to roll back environmental regulations. “This is not abstract for us,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview. “This is real. The dangers are there.” New Jersey’s initiative is believed to be the broadest, and most specific, attempt to leverage land-use rules to control where and what developers can build, and to limit the volume of emissions that are spewed into the air...”

Shorter Cold Snaps. Does it still get cold in Minnesota? Uh, yeah. But the intensity and duration of cold has dropped off significantly since the 1970s, according to Climate Central.

Amazon Workers Not Staying Silent: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company’s climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change. Employee activist group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice published more than 350 critical quotes from employees, all who signed with their full names and positions, in a Medium post Sunday. Earlier this month, the group reported that several of its members had been contacted by representatives from human resources about speaking out on climate in relation to the company’s external communication policy, including two employees who were warned that “violation” of the policy could result in their being fired. “Amazon, the Earth is our only home,” Virginie Muzereau, a data linguist, said in the Medium post. “Spend more money on fighting Climate Change than on space exploration!” (AP, Recode, Washington Post $, Axios, Gizmodo)

Move to Buffalo? With Earth Warming, Northern Cities Could Become Oases. Here’s a clip from a story at NBC News: “…Keenan listed off what makes these cities so appealing: access to bodies of fresh lake water, distance from the coast, elevation from sea level, and colder weather that will become a little more temperate. “If you’re a Duluth, Minn., or a Buffalo or a Burlington, Vermont, there’s an opportunity,” he said. “You have a potentially superior place to live in the face of climate change.” Stephen Vermette, a professor of geography at SUNY Buffalo State, used climate data from 1965 to 2018 to analyze the impact of changing temperatures in Western New York. The models showed rising regional air temperatures and longer growing seasons. More surprising, however, was the discovery that severe weather indices, precipitation and extreme heat were largely unchanged over those years…”

Image credit: Duluth Chamber of Commerce.