Enduring the Dark Days of December

“If only I was as brilliant during daylight as I am at twilight”, wrote Anastasia Bolinder. December is a month of perpetual twilight. Today’s ration of sunlight is 8 hours and 46 minutes. That compares to 15 hours, 37 minutes of daylight on June 21.

This is hardly scientific, but this time of year more people complain to me about a lack of daylight than cold or snow.

Cheer up. The Winter Solstice, when the sun is lowest in the southern sky, is Saturday at 10:19pm. By December 31 we pick up another 3 minutes of daylight – 57 minutes by January 31, and 2 hours and 20 minutes by February 29. Brighter days ahead!

In the meantime, if melting snow doesn’t spark fog and low stratus clouds, we may enjoy 6 days in a row above 32F. If the sun stays out much of Saturday and Sunday (quite possible) we may hit 40F. Here in
the Land of Low Weather Expectations, in December, that’s almost a vacation.

No storms are brewing into next week; the next chance of heavy wet snow may come the Sunday after Christmas.

Quiet Pattern Into Next Week. The first chance of a real storm may not come until the Sunday after Christmas. Temperatures peak this weekend, and then slowly retreat next week, but remain above average. Map sequence above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

6-Day Thaw? If you believe ECMWF, yes. If the sun peeks out on Saturday and Sunday 40F is possible. You’ll be amazed how good 40F will feel. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Glancing Blow of Arctic Air First Week of January? Note the question mark. Confidence levels are low, but a very fast zonal flow may buckle, plunging numbing air south of the border, with New England (potentially) taking a direct hit of fresh air.

Christmas Stats. Statistically, there is a 74% probability of a white Christmas (1″ or more on the ground at MSP). Map credit above: Climate Central.

Seasonal Snowfall To Date. Heaviest amounts, as one might expect, have been downwind of the Great Lakes and over the Rockies. No snow reported in Florida. Map credit: pivotalweather.com.

Australia Records Hottest Day Ever – One Day After Previous Record. The Guardian has the story: “Australia recorded its hottest day on record on Wednesday, with an average maximum temperature of 41.9C (107.4F), beating the previous record by 1C that had been set only 24 hours earlier. Tuesday 16 December recorded an average of 40.9C across the continent, beating the previous record of 40.3C set on 7 January 2013. But it held the record for just 24 hours. Wednesday was even hotter across the country, with the highest maximum temperature reached in Birdsville, South Australia, which hit 47.7C (117.8)...”

Yes, There’s Microplastic in the Snow. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised; Quartz has the story: “This is the year we found microplastic in the snow.  Although microplastics have been popping up everywhere from the waters of Antarctica to our table salt, the idea that it could blow in the wind or fall as precipitation back down to Earth is extremely new. The main mode of microplastic transport, as far as we knew as recently as last year, was water. It had already shown up in drinking water a few years prior. But microplastic in snow suggests something different: Microplastics carried by wind, and settling out of the air along with the frosty flakes…”

Read more here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article238427398.html#storylink=cpy

Mike Bloomberg Has a Plan to Clean Up Electricity and It Doesn’t Need Congress. Here’s a clip from a story at Vox: “…The premise of Bloomberg’s campaign is that he is an experienced, level-headed executive, ready to run things with a steady hand. In keeping with that theme, his plan for clean electricity — which targets 80 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions in the power sector by 2028 “moving toward 100% as soon as possible thereafter” — focuses entirely on executive powers. It presumes no legislative help. It contains only achievable promises, consistent with what can be done by a president, acting alone, within a president’s term. That is somewhat in contrast to the sweeping, speculative plans from the other candidates, and likely to make the plan unpopular among activists, but it is nonetheless a good perspective into what any Democratic president could do if Congress goes the wrong way...”

25 Ideas That Will Shape the 2020s. Fortune.com has a hopeful article; here’s an excerpt: “...McAfee believes capitalism is partly the solution to its own ills. In the U.S. “we’re not using up the earth as much anymore. We’re using it less, even as our growth continues,” says McAfee. Pollution is, in the developed world, decreasing year over year. Electricity use has been effectively flat in America for about a decade even as growth continues. Companies are “locked in nasty competition” thanks to capitalism, McAfee says, and many are fighting to use fewer resources and less energy, which cost money. At the same time, innovations in digital technologies are creating cleaner, more efficient alternatives to material goods. Consider the smartphone. How many fewer cameras and camcorders and answering machines and fax machines are being produced now?…”

Illustration credit: BENEDETTO CRISTOFANI.

Burger King Offers Free Impossible Whoppers for Delayed Air Travelers. Sounds like a marketing coup to me. USA Today explains: “Burger King is offering holiday travelers a consolation for delayed flights – free Impossible Whoppers.  Now through Dec. 30, since hurried travelers can’t have it their way, the fast-food chain wants them to “Delay Your Way.” Unlike last year’s viral Whopper Detour promotion, which sent hungry burger fans to McDonald’s restaurants, to land this deal you’ll need to be at an airport, at least for the first leg of the trip, to get the free sandwich. “We know that holiday travel can be extremely rough, and there is nothing worse than all of those uncontrollable flight delays,” Chris Finazzo, Burger King’s president for North America, said in a statement. “We wanted to surprise and delight our guests by offering those with delayed flights across the country a free Impossible Whopper...”

Want to Live Longer? Visit a Museum or Art Gallery. CNN.com explains the curious connection: “A trip to the theater, museum or art gallery could help you live longer. And the more often you get that culture fix the better, a new study suggests.  Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that people who engaged in the arts more frequently — every few months or more — had a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to those who didn’t. Even going to the theater or museum once or twice a year was linked with a 14% lower risk.  They looked at data given by more than 6,000 adults in England age 50 years and older, who were taking part in a wider study on aging…”

7″ snow on the ground at MSP International Airport Thursday evening.

29 F. Twin Cities high yesterday.

26 F. average high on December 19.

42 F. high on December 19, 2018.

December 20, 1989: Minnesotans are hard pressed to find snow cover across most of the state. Only good places to cross country ski are at Grand Marais and along the Gunflint Trail.

FRIDAY: Patchy clouds, milder. Winds: S 8-13. High: 33

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, almost pleasant. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 21. High: near 40

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, Marchlike. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 26. High: 39

MONDAY: Sunny peeks, slightly cooler. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 26. High: 35

CHRISTMAS EVE: Good shopping weather. Dry sky. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 25. High: 34

CHRISTMAS DAY: Cloudy and quiet. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 27. High: 32

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, no weather drama. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 21. High: 31

Climate Stories….

Fingerprints of Climate Change Increasingly Appear in Severe Weather. No kidding. Like turning up the volume on an event that might have formed naturally. A warmer, wetter climate is amplifying extreme weather events, as described at Science News: “Extremely low sea ice in the Bering Sea. Heavy rainfall in the mid-Atlantic United States. Wildfires in northeast Australia. Examinations of these and 16 other extreme weather events that occurred in 2018 found that all but one were made more likely due to human-caused climate change, scientists reported December 9 at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Insufficient observational data made it impossible to assess the influence of climate change on the one event, heavy rains in Tasmania. The new report marks the third year in a row that scientists have identified specific weather events that they said would not have happened without human activities that are altering Earth’s climate…”

File photo credit: “Flash flooding on May 27, 2018, turned Main Street in Ellicott City, Md., into a river. The heavy rains throughout much of 2018 that led to the mid-Atlantic region’s floods were made more likely by human-caused climate change, scientists say. Libby Solomon/The Baltimore Sun via AP.

Earth’s Hottest Decade on Record Marked by Extreme Storms, Deadly Wildfires. Here’s the intro to a post at InsideClimate News: “Deadly heat waves, wildfires and widespread flooding punctuated a decade of climate extremes that, by many scientific accounts, show global warming kicking into overdrive. As the year drew to a close, scientists were confidently saying 2019 was Earth’s second-warmest recorded year on record, capping the warmest decade. Eight of the 10 warmest years since measurements began occurred this decade, and the other two were only a few years earlier. Arctic sea ice melted faster and took longer to form again in the fall. Big swaths of ocean remained record-warm nearly all year, in some regions spawning horrifically damaging tropical storms that surprised experts with their rapid intensification. Densely populated parts of Europe shattered temperature records amid heat waves blamed for hundreds of deaths, and a huge section of the U.S. breadbasket region was swamped for months by floodwater...”

A 3C World is Now “Business as Usual”. Not as bad a previous worst-case projections but potentially bad enough, according to The Breakthrough Institute: “The world is on a path to warm around 3C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 under policies and commitments currently in place. This is a far cry from the 1.5C and 2C targets enshrined in the Paris agreements, but is also well short of the 4C to 5C warming in many “business as usual” baseline scenarios that continue to be widely used. Two recently released reports — the International Energy Agency (IEA) 2019 World Energy Outlook (WEO) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2019 Emissions Gap Report — both reflect current trends in clean energy technology costs and deployment and make the case that global emissions will be relatively flat over the next few decades...”

File image: NASA.

General Motors, Ford Among New Funders of Carbon Tax Push. Axios has the story; here’s the intro: “More companies from across the corporate spectrum are joining a long-shot advocacy effort to pass a carbon tax in a bitterly divided Congress. Driving the news: General Motors, Ford, IBM and two electricity companies — Calpine Corporation and Vistra Energy — are putting money toward a lobbying campaign that would put a price on CO2 emissions and refund revenue back to consumers. Where it stands: These companies join several others funding Americans For Carbon Dividends (AFCD), the lobbying arm of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), which is a coalition of strange bedfellows that includes companies, environmental groups and former Republican lawmakers.

  • The groups’ proposal would impose a $40-a-ton tax on CO2 emissions and cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2035…”

Snow Machines and Fleece Blankets: Inside the Ski Industry’s Battle with Climate Change. The Guardian explains; here’s an excerpt: “…For the Alpine ski industry, which hosts 35% of the world’s ski resorts across eight countries, and serves an estimated 120 million tourists each year, this is potentially an extinction-level event. Val d’Isère is one of the mountain range’s highest resorts, so it will be one of the last to feel the full effects of the climate catastrophe. But farther down the mountains, the disappearance of snow has already begun to devastate the ski industry, as well as the communities that rely on it. Since 1960, the average snow season has shortened by 38 days, while “seasonal drift” has pushed the coldest weather from December to the early months of the year, throwing the ski season out of sync with the lucrative Christmas holidays. In November 2017 the EU launched the Prosnow project, whereby scientists advise Alpine resorts on how to “maintain the same season duration with 30% less snow”...

Photo credit: “Snow cannon in the Swiss Alps.” Photograph: Simon Parkin.

Can the Internet Survive Climate Change. Reading this web page requires energy, which is still reliant primarily on fossil fuels. How do we change this paradigm? Here’s a clip from New Republic: …“One of the reasons why the energy use of the internet keeps increasing is that we are always online, and from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, we’re connected,” de Decker says. “We thought it was important to question always being online. Do we really need to be connected every minute of the day?” How the internet adapts to the pressures of the climate crisis will change daily life as we know it, from high-speed trading to sh*t-posting, from email to aircraft control. It’s an open question whether the internet of the future will be as reliable as it is today. In fact, it’s likely that internet access will be among the many scarce resources that future generations will fight over, and that this unequal distribution could create two different internets: one for the poor and another for the rich…”

For Business, Climate Change Has Become Real. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports: “The debate over climate change intensified over the decade, amid several of the hottest years on record, several extreme weather events and the publication of a wave of reports on warming. That—along with attention to the issue by policy makers in many countries and increasingly heated rhetoric—brought the issue to the doorstep of business, in the form of environmental disclosures, carbon pledges and green investment. Big companies, like Amazon. com and Nestlé, set out ambitious—if long-term—plans to become carbon-neutral over decades. A few companies shifted their focus, such as Equinor AS, a European integrated oil company that turned toward renewable energy. The turning point for business came in 2015, with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. More than 190 nations met to agree on a plan to tackle the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions, crystallizing the anxieties of governments and environmental activists the world over...”

FINANCE: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Goldman Sachs rules out financing for Arctic drilling. Will other U.S. banks follow? (Washington Post $), Bank of England to test climate risks at banks and insurers in 2021 (Reuters), investment bankers are now waging the war on coal (The Atlantic), the coming Wall Street battles over climate change (Axios), UK banks asked to tell BOE about risks from climate change (Bloomberg), for business, climate change has become real.” (Wall Street Journal $)