It’s Much Too Early To Write Off Winter

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love” wrote 19th century American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie. Well-worn traditions will look different this year but the love story lives on, undiminished.

It runs contrary to every fiber in my being, but this year the greatest gift I can give the people I love most is to keep my distance from them.

After a rough and tumble start in October Old Man Winter has been remarkably absent in recent weeks and snow lovers are starting to fret. I don’t pretend to know what the entire winter will bring, but it would be wildly premature to write off cold and snow.

Mild, dry Pacific winds linger into the first half of next week, but a numbing shot of Canadian airmail sets up by the 3rd week of December. It will be more than cold enough for snow before Christmas, the question is whether any southern moisture spin up a real storm in time for Christmas?

It may be a very close call – but ever the optimist – something tells me we’ll be shoveling in 2-3 weeks.

File image: NOAA.

Where’s the Snow? And to think we had a record snowy October. Who would have predicted the current state of snowy affairs 6 weeks ago? 3″ on the ground at Duluth and 2″ at International Falls. Weird.

Above Average Temperatures Into First Half of Next Week. The average metro high now is 32F, and daytime highs will be nearly 10F above average the next week or so before cooling off the latter half of next week.

Relatively Mild Next 7-8 Days, Then Trending Colder. The big question (in my mind) is just how cold will it get by the third week of December. The GFS solution (below) suggests polar air invading Minnesota and much of the eastern half of the USA, but there is disagreement among models as to the severity and duration of any inevitable chill. Graphics: WeatherBell.

GFS Potential: Positively Polar. Not buying this solution (yet) but if it verifies it would imply single digit highs within 2 weeks for much of the northern USA. We are due for a shift in the pattern (in fact we are overdue) but I’m not convinced the outbreak will be as harsh as predicted above. I want to see a few more model runs to see how real this is.

8-14 Day Temperature Anomaly Forecast. A mild signal bullseye directly over the Upper Midwest into mid-December? Latest outlook from NOAA CPC. Looks pretty toasty.

January 2021 Temperature Anomalies. NOAA’s Climate Forecast System version 2 maintains a milder than average signal for much of North America into January. To which I reply, what La Nina? Map credit: NOAA.

Operational Winter Storm Severity Index. With the exception of lake effect snow and some snow and icing over Kansas and northern Oklahoma, it looks fairly quiet across the USA. NOAA WPC is making WSSI operational – another step forward.

A Tornado-Proof Home? Don’t laugh, the trend may catch on in the heart of Tornado Alley. Here’s an excerpt of a design concept from and FX Magazine: “…The goal of this research and initial concept is to shift the way people look at natural disasters, and to ultimately design entire towns around the concept of disaster resistance. The tornado proof house is intended to be a tornado and flood proof home for the American Midwest. A portion of the house is raised up and down out of harm’s way on a series of hydraulic arms. When a storm approaches, sensors activate the hydraulics and lower the house into the ground and the roof is sealed under water proof doors. By raising the house, it allows for daylight and cross ventilation, which are lacked in typical underground houses. The house is intended to save lives and remove the extremely expensive rebuilding efforts required after storms…”

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...”

Where Will the Next Big Flood Hit? Coastal flooding is increasing, even on days when no storm is nearby. Volunteers are making a big difference. The Atlantic looks at the new challenges facing forecasters: “…Low-lying mid-latitude cities such as Norfolk are especially vulnerable, says geographer James Voogt of the University of Western Ontario, one of the authors of a 2020 article in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources on climate events in urban areas. “You’ve got three things operating in the direction that increases the vulnerability of a city to flooding events,” he says: sea-level rise, increased chances of severe precipitation events, and an abundance of impervious surfaces that prevent water absorption and encourage runoff. As early as 2050, climate scientists predict, the average high tide in the Norfolk area will be equal to today’s king tides. But it’s not just the mid-Atlantic region: Many other parts of the world will be increasingly prone to floods that risk lives and property…”

File image: Citizen’s Committee for Flood Relief.

Climate Central has more perspective and graphical tools showing affordable housing threatening by increased coastal flooding here.

Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon Surges to 12-Year High. reports: “Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged to a 12-year high in the year between August 2019 and July 2020, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Over that time, 11,088 square kilometers (6,890 square miles) were destroyed — up 9.5% from the previous year-long period, and the highest level of destruction since 2008, INPE said during a news conference to release their annual data on Monday. Deforestation has soared since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Bolsonaro has encouraged the development of the Amazon and has defunded the agencies responsible for preventing illegal logging, ranching and mining in the rainforest...”

The Race to Crack Battery Recycling – Before It’s Too Late. (paywall) explains the challenge, which will become an opportunity for many new start-ups: “…Redwood is part of a wave of new startups racing to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist yet: How to recycle the mountains of batteries from electric vehicles that are past their prime. Over the past decade, the world’s lithium-ion production capacity has increased tenfold to meet the growing demand for EVs. Now vehicles from that first production wave are just beginning to reach the end of their lifespan. This marks the beginning of a tsunami of spent batteries, which will only get worse as more electric cars hit the road. The International Energy Agency predicts an 800 percent increase in the number of EVs over the next decade, each car packed with thousands of cells. The dirty secret of the EV revolution is that it created an e-waste timebomb—and cracking lithium-ion recycling is the only way to defuse it...”

Image credit: Li-Cycle.

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)

What is “Net Zero”? Climate Central examines the challenge: “The term “net zero” means that any greenhouse gas emissions released are balanced by an equal amount being taken out of the atmosphere. The Paris Climate Agreement created goals to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2.0°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, and to aim to curb the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F). To do this, global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and reach “net zero” by mid-century for the 1.5°C degree target. Core areas of the U.S. economy—transportation, electricity, industry, agriculture, and commercial and residential buildings—need to undergo major transformation in order to get to net zero…”

Forecast Calls for More Monoliths. has an update: “After the surprising discovery and subsequent disappearance of a monolith in the middle of the Utah desert earlier this month, it seems a similar object has been found in Romania.  A structure that appears to be identical to the one in the Utah desert was found on Batca Doamnei Hill in Romania on Nov. 26, according to The Mirror. As was the case with the monolith found in Utah, it’s not clear where this one came from and who installed it. There’s a lot of unknown around the discoveries of these strange objects. When Utah’s Department of Public Safety first found the 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque monolith, people wondered whether it had been the work of aliens, or perhaps artwork by sculptor John McCracken, who died in 2011…”

Photo credit: “After this monolith was discovered (before disappearing) in Utah, another was apparently spotted in Romania.” Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau.

43 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

32 F. average MSP high on December 2.

27 F. high on December 2, 2019.

December 3, 1998: Albert Lea soars to a record-setting 67 degrees.

THURSDAY: Plenty of sunshine. Winds: W 8-13. High: near 40

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, slightly cooler. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: 37

SATURDAY: More clouds, stray flurries. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 27. High: 34

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 28. High: 36

MONDAY: Blue sky, relatively mild for December. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 26. High: 42

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, still nice. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, cooler wind kicks in. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 38

Climate Stories…

2020 Hurricane Season Raising More Concerns About Climate Change. The underlying culprit is warming oceans; 93% of the additional man-made warming related to GHG emissions is going into the world’s oceans. Here’s an excerpt from The Daily Climate: “…An important part of this season’s story is the Atlantic warming trend we’re witnessing, which is unprecedented going back at least several millennia. The oceans store much of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases. With greenhouse gas concentrations still increasing due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, average sea surface temperatures are likely to continue rising over the coming decades. Whether climate change caused the extremely high number of storms this season is unclear. There is no detectable trend in global hurricane frequency, and computer modeling studies have had conflicting results. However, the warming climate is increasing the threat posed by hurricanes in other ways...”

Map credit: ” Tropical storm tracks show how busy the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was.” Credit: Brian McNoldy, CC BY-ND.

Turning Point on Climate Change? Countries Are Still Choosing Fossil Fuels Over Clean Energy, Report Says. Here’s the intro to an explainer at “Governments of the world are at a “critical juncture” for shaping the climate’s future but are on course to produce too many fossil fuels in the decade ahead, a new report has found. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — which scientists say would avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change — countries need to wind down their fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, according to the 2020 Production Gap report. Instead, countries are on track to produce an increase of 2% per year. And as governments pour money into their economies in a bid to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, they risk locking the world into a climate disaster by investing more heavily in fossil fuel industries...”

Climate Researchers Enlist Big Cloud Providers for Big Data Challenges. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports: “The cloud’s ability to chew through vast amounts of data using machine-learning algorithms is drawing in more researchers from the data-intensive world of climate science. “It’s a game-changer,” said Duncan Watson-Parris, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. He is using cloud-based machine learning algorithms from Amazon Web Services to better understand how actual clouds are altered by aerosols, such as soot and sulfate, from cargo ships. And the shift hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Big Three cloud providers. AWS and others offer subscription-based remote data storage and online tools, and researchers say they can be an affordable alternative to setting up and maintaining their own hardware…”

Trees Can Help Slow Climate Change, But At a Cost. I stumbled upon an interesting press release at Ohio State News: “Widespread forest management and protections against deforestation can help mitigate climate change – but will come with a steep cost if deployed as broadly as policymakers have discussed, new research suggests. The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, found that planting and protecting trees, especially in the tropics, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 6 gigatons a year from 2025 to 2055. That reduction, the researchers’ economic model showed, would cost as much as $393 billion a year over the same time period. “There is a significant amount of carbon that can be sequestered through forests, but these costs aren’t zero,” said Brent Sohngen, co-author of the study and a professor of environmental economics at The Ohio State University…”

File image: Paul Douglas.

Shell Faces Dutch Court as Climate Change Activists Demand End to Emissions. Reuters reports: “Environmental activists took Royal Dutch Shell to court on Tuesday, demanding the energy firm drastically reduce the production of oil and gas to limit its effects on climate change. Seven activist groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, filed the lawsuit in the Netherlands in April last year on behalf of more than 17,000 Dutch citizens who say the oil major is threatening human rights as it continues to invest billions in the production of fossil fuels. They are demanding that Shell cuts its greenhouse gas emissions almost in half by 2030 and to zero by 2050 – which would effectively force the Anglo-Dutch firm to quickly move away from oil and gas and direct its investment to sustainable sources of energy...”

Every Major Bank Has Now Ruled Out Funding Arctic Drilling. Gizmodo has the latest: “…On Monday evening, Bank of America said that it will no longer finance fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic, joining Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Chase, Wells Fargo, and CitiBank, which all announced similar policies this year. That means no major U.S. bank will fund oil and gas production in the region anymore. The news follows years of public pressure from climate organizers for companies to stop enabling Arctic drilling. The movement heated up since last fall when a coalition launched Stop the Money Pipeline, a campaign to call out Wall Street firms’ role in particular. Bank of America’s decision came at a crucial moment…”