Mother-lode of Polar Air Arrives Next Week

A friend of mine was ‘under the weather’ this week, curious about where the expression originated. According to The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, it’s probably a nautical term. Sick sailors were sent down below to get better; under the deck – away from the weather. Great trivia for your next slumber party.

You may feel pangs of disgust and discomfort gazing at the 7-Day. By midweek, we may see the coldest
temperatures since 2004, when the mercury at MSP sank to a face-chapping -24F. Records show only 6 mornings of 20 below or colder at MSP since 2000.

It’s increasingly rare, but little pieces of the polar vortex still flake off and meander south of the border. I suspect next week’s invasion will be the coldest of the winter. BTW, subzero lows become less frequent in February, due to a higher sun angle.

A strong clipper may still drop 3-7 inches of powder late Sunday and Sunday night, with the best chance of a half foot or more south of the Twin Cities. Expect a memorable AM commute Monday morning.

We are pretty tough when it comes to weather, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see schools closing next week due to the cold.

Cold Enough for Dave. A buddy and former colleague of mine, Dave Anderson, lives up on Bass Lake, near Nisswa. He believes this low temperature reading Saturday morning was the coldest since he’s been living up there. Hang in there Dave – spring is coming, and it will feel extra-good this year.

4 Consecutive Subzero Days at MSP? According to the Minnesota DNR and State Climate Office, the last time that happened was December 19-22, 1989. There’s a chance the metro area may experience 4 days colder than 0F next week.

NOAA Models: 4-8″ Possible. The GFS and NAM model runs print out more snow than the Euro does, with a snow-rain ration close to 20-1, the .50″ liquid predicted by the 00z NAM equates to close to 10″ of snow. I’m not (yet) convinced that the heaviest snow bands will set up right over the metro area. Graphic: Iowa State.

ECMWF: Not as Snowy. NOAA’s models print out as much as 8″ for the MSP metro Sunday night into Monday morning, but European guidance keeps the heaviest snow band well south of the Twin Cities. Place your bets. ECMWF snowfall by midday Monday: WeatherBell.

Extreme Arctic Outbreak Next Week as Polar Vortex Targets Northern U.S. Jason Samenow has a post on what’s coming at Capital Weather Gang: “One of the most severe cold air outbreaks in years is possible from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast next week as the jet stream crashes south and a large lobe of the polar vortex plunges toward the Great Lakes. Computer models forecast the brutal cold to crash into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest starting Tuesday. The core of the frigid blast would grip the region from the Dakotas to the eastern Great Lakes on Wednesday and Thursday, sending cities such as Minneapolis, Des Moines, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit into a teeth-chattering freeze. Confidence in a significant outbreak of Arctic air is high, but it’s too soon to project its exact strength and final legacy…”

Animation credit: “European model simulation of cold pool of air dropping into the Upper Midwest and Northeast next week.” (

Another Shot. Although probably not as cold as what we’ll muddle through next week, 2-week GFS winds at 500 mb are predicted to buckle again with another push of arctic air tracking south of the border.

2 or More Consecutive Days Below 0F at MSP? It’s happened 4 times since 2000, the most recent 2-day stretch of negative numbers in the Twin Cities from December 30-31, 2017.

Last -20F Air Temperature at MSP. It looks like there have been 6 nights of -20F or colder since 2000 (more than I thought). The last time was December 18, 2016 with a low of -20F at MSP. The last time the airport registered anything colder than -22F was January 30, 2004. I’m thinking we may get that cold one night next week.

Bitter Cold a Greater Risk To Thin People. More incentive to get up to my winter-weight.  CBS Baltimore explains: “…Cold is especially dangerous for the elderly, children, those who are sick and skinny people. “If you have less fat you have less insulation and you can have too much cold inside the heart, liver, kidney, internal organs and then they become dysfunctional,” said Jagish Khubchandani, a community health professor at Ball State University. Research from Ball State University has documented how cold weather impacts people. It says people with a body fat range of 15 to 20 percent or lower could experience potential harmful side effects from frigid temperatures…The study says white women, especially those who are athletic or have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, are at the greatest risk of cold weather illness…”

File image: NOAA.

Insured Cat Losses Reach $90 Billion in 2018: Aon. Here’s a clip from a summary at Business Insurance: “Natural catastrophes caused $90 billion in insured losses in 2018, the fourth highest total on record, according to a report Monday from Aon PLC. The 394 natural catastrophe events generated economic losses of $225 billion, according to Aon’s Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight: 2018 Annual Report. Further, 2017 and 2018 now form the costliest back-to-back years on record for both insured losses across all perils at $237 billion and economic losses solely due to weather-related events at $653 billion, Aon said. The tropical cyclone peril was the largest single driver of loss as several significant storms made landfall, including hurricanes Michael and Florence in the U.S.; typhoons Jebi and Trami in Japan; Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, Hong Kong and China; and Typhoon Rumbia in China, the report said…”

October 10, 2018 satellite image of Hurricane Michael courtesy of AerisWeather.

18 Unusual Facts About Hurricanes. I had no idea, but a post at BestLife set me straight: “…You’re more likely to donate to a hurricane relief effort if the offending storm shares your first initial. How’s that for name guilt? One study found that if a person shares the same first initial as a hurricane, they’re more than twice as likely to donate to its relief efforts. For example, people with the first initial “K” typically make up 4.2 percent of Red Cross disaster relief donors. But after Hurricane Katrina, they made up 9.8 percent of donors. The study also found that when a hurricane’s name sounds similar to a person’s name, that person tends to feel a bit of responsibility for any devastation the hurricane might bring…”

File image: NASA.

How to Solve the World’s Plastics Problem: Bring Back the Milk Man. Here are a couple of clips from a story that caught my eye: “…Plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.  Marine life is choking on the debris: Microplastics are in our soil, our water, our air, getting into our bodies with potential consequences that we don’t fully understand yet. Massive amounts of plastic have piled up in landfills, some emitting greenhouse gases and contributing to global warming over the seeming eternity they take to degrade. Plastics are threatening the health of the planet and its inhabitants, and they’re not going away…Loop is a new way to shop, offering about 300 items — from Tide detergent to Pantene shampoo, Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Crest mouthwash — all in reusable packaging. After using the products, customers put the empty containers in a Loop tote on their doorstep. The containers are then picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again. In other words, it’s the 21st century milk man — here to save the world from single-use plastics…”

Can a Nice Doctor Make Treatments More Effective? That appears to be the case, according to new research highlighted at The New York Times: “…We found that having a doctor who is warm and reassuring actually improves your health. The simple things a doctor says and does to connect with patients can make a difference for health outcomes. Even a brief reassurance to a patient from a doctor might relieve the patient’s symptoms faster…All of this research suggests that doctors who don’t connect with their patients may risk undermining a treatment’s success. Doctor-patient rapport is not just a fluffy, feel-good bonus that boosts Yelp reviews, but a component of medical care that has important effects on a patient’s physical health. Particularly as artificial intelligence promises a world where we don’t need to go to the doctor for minor questions, we should not overlook the value of interacting with a human doctor and hearing words of encouragement…”

Workers in Heartland States Most at Risk of Losing Jobs to AI, New Study Finds. Here’s a clip from a story at PowerPost at The Washington Post: “People who live in heartland states such as Kentucky and Indiana are most at risk in the United States of losing their jobs to robots or other artificial intelligence, according to a new report published today from the Brookings Institution. President Trump carried many of these states in the 2016 election with promises to improve job opportunities for these “forgotten” Americans he said were left behind as other parts of the country recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. But the think tank found an impending wave of artificial intelligence could disrupt jobs even more in these states. Repetitive tasks that involve processing information, performing physical activities or operating machinery will be the first to be replaced by artificial intelligence — which could hit manufacturing jobs hard…”

Photo credit: “Robots weld the cab of a 2018 Ford F-150 truck on the assembly line at the Ford Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich.” (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File).

Robots Will Take Jobs From Men, the Young, and Minorities. explains: “…The evidence indicates US workers will instead be lapped by the gentler swells of a gradual revolution, in which jobs are transformed piecemeal as machines grow more capable. Now a new study predicts that young, Hispanic, and black workers will be most affected by that creeping disruption. Men will suffer more changes to their work than women. The analysis, from the Brookings Institution, suggests that just as the dividends of recent economic growth have been distributed unevenly, so too will the disruptive effects of automation. In both cases, nonwhite, less economically secure workers lose out. “In general we see a rather manageable transition [for most workers], especially those who have a bachelor’s degree,” says Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings…”

Never Tweet. In case you missed this column at The New York Times; here’s a clip: “…The Covington saga illustrates how every day the media’s favorite social network tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and bot-driven groupthink. In the process, it helps bolster the most damaging stereotypes of our profession. Instead of curious, intellectually honest chroniclers of human affairs, Twitter regularly turns many in the news — myself included — into knee-jerk outrage-bots reflexively set off by this or that hash-tagged cause, misspelled presidential missive or targeted-influence campaign. But Twitter isn’t just ruining the media’s image. It’s also skewing our journalism…”

Faked Out. A post at Real Life examines why so many of us are ready to belive that “truth” is over; here’s an excerpt: “It seems like the last remaining truth, the last fact we can agree on, is that reality itself is slipping away. We don’t breathe the same truths but are suffocating in epistemic bubbles, cut off from each other in separate and competing realities. The substance of the world itself is breaking, and with it going civility, journalism, and democracy. In its place we have post-truth, reality apathy, and alternative facts. There’s fake news, fake audio and fake video, deepfake porn, fake followers on Twitter and fake friends on Facebook. There are bots masquerading as human and humans disguised as bots. Images are increasingly augmented, manipulated, intensified, if not altogether algorithmically generated. Perhaps our only shared reality is of a world that feels fake…”

Image credit: Marinos Tsagkarakis. Courtesy the artist.

Amazon’s New Robot Scout Delivers Packages to Rich People. Any job that can be automated or done by robots – will be. Quartz has details: “Amazon today (Jan. 23) unveiled Scout, a six-wheeled blue robot that delivers packages. The company said in its announcement that it’s field testing six Scout robots in a neighborhood of Snohomish County, Washington, during weekday daylight hours. Scout robots are “the size of a small cooler, and roll along sidewalks at a walking pace,” according to Amazon’s release. Amazon’s robots are similar to those that Starship Technologies, a robotics startup, introduced in 2016 to make deliveries in a handful of US and European cities. In the US, Starship has partnered with food-delivery startups DoorDash and Postmates on its tests. In December, Postmates debuted its own delivery robot, a bright yellow four-wheeled carriage named “Serve.” Delivery companies believe they can become more profitable by replacing their main expense—human labor—with trundling robots like Serve and Scout…”

Photo credit: “Amazon’s delivery robot, Scout.” Amazon.

For $80 You Can Buy “Used Tissues” And Decide When You Want to Get Sick. Fox News has the vaguely disgusting story: “A company which sells used tissues in an effort to allow consumers to decide when they get sick has reportedly been sold out online for months. The tissues, created by company Vaev and sold online for a steep $79.99, will help people “prepare for the flu season and feeling clear all year round,” according to the company website. “We believe that when flu season comes around, you should be able to get sick on your terms,” the Los Angeles-based company states online. “We believe using a tissue that carries a human sneeze is safer than needles or pills.” Oliver Niessen, the company’s 34-year-old founder, told TIME that the idea behind the product is to “choose” when you get sick, rather than deal with it when it naturally comes…Most customers who purchase the used tissues are “young parents and people in their 20s” who are skeptical of vaccines and seeking “alternatives,” according to Niessen...”

-9 F. low Friday morning in the Twin Cities.

5 F. maximum temperature yesterday.

24 F. average high on January 25 at MSP.

28 F. high on January 25, 2018.

January 26, 1916: A severe ice storm hits Mower County. Hundreds of birds were killed.

SATURDAY: Dusting of flurries possible. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 11

SUNDAY: Sunny start, snow arrives PM hours. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: -7. High: 6

SUNDAY NIGHT: Accumulating snow leaves roads very slippery. 3-7″ possible. Low: 0

MONDAY: Slow AM commute. Light snow tapers. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 7

TUESDAY: Frigid air arrives. Feels like -35F. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: -15. High: -7

WEDNESDAY: Positively polar. Feels like -45F. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: -22. High: -12

THURSDAY: Still dangerously cold. Blue sky. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: -24. High: -8

FRIDAY: Winds ease. Sunny, still mosquito-free. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: -21. High: near 0.

Climate Stories…

The World Just Experienced the Four Hottest Years on Record. Details via The Atlantic: “2018 was hotter than any year in the 19th century. It was hotter than any year in the 20th century. It was hotter than any year in the first decade of this century. In fact, with only three exceptions, it was the hottest year on Earth since 1850. Those three exceptions: 2018 was slightly cooler than 2015, 2016, and 2017. The past four years, in other words, have been the four hottest years ever reliably measured. That’s according to Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research group that published its annual temperature analysis on Thursday. The new finding “remains consistent with a long-term trend toward global warming,” the report says...”

Graphic above: Berkeley Earth.

Extreme Weather Events Could Worsen Climate Change. Scientific American delves into near research showing a possible feedback cycle between extreme weather events and longer-scale climate trends: “…Using earth system models, the authors calculated land might actually absorb about twice as much carbon if it weren’t for the fluctuations caused by these unusual weather and climate events. That’s a big deal for the climate. A substantial proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions humans put into the atmosphere—as much as 25 percent, by some estimates—get reabsorbed into the Earth’s soil and vegetation. “The concern is if these events became more commonplace, and then ecosystems didn’t have the time to recover between events, that they could take a larger toll on overall carbon flux,” said Julia Green, lead study author and a doctoral student at Columbia University…”

Why Cold Weather Doesn’t Mean Climate Change is Fake. Weather vs. climate. A single freeze frame vs. an entire 2-hour movie. CNN Headline News vs. The History Channel. Here are a few excerpts from a good explainer at NatGeo: “…In a time when climate change is discussed in the context of record highs, droughts, and wildfires, cold weather and blizzards can seem out of place. For those who deny that climate change is happening, it’s an opportunity to undermine scientific consensus. How do you explain a cold winter in a world that scientists say is getting hotter?…A separate study published in March of last year in the journal Nature Communications found the same link but predicted the northeastern portion of the U.S. would be particularly hard hit. “Warm temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to take these wild swings, and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to reach farther south. These swings tend to hang around for awhile, so the weather we have in the eastern United States, whether it’s cold or warm, tends to stay with us longer,” said study author Jennifer Francis in a press release…”

Climate Change is Making Winter Colder in the Northeast. More perspective on how rapid warming of the Arctic is disrupting jet stream winds, creating more instability and volatility – increasing the odds of extreme temperature swings, courtesy of NexusMedia: “…Climate change is weakening the jet stream by reducing the difference in temperature between cold, northern air and warm, southern air. As the Earth warms, it’s not warming evenly. The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, meaning it is growing closer in temperature to more southern latitudes. As a result, the barrier between cold and warm air is growing weaker, and the jet stream is going wobbly. Instead of forming an even ring around the Arctic, the jet stream is now twisting and contorting, allowing the polar vortex, the mass of cold, dense air over the north pole, to reach its tendrils further south, chilling large parts of the United States and Europe…”

Climate Change is a Public Health Emergency. A story at Scientific American makes the case; here’s the intro: “Recent national surveys showed that 58 percent of Americans believe that they themselves will not be harmed by climate change, while 61 percent had given little or no thought to how climate change might affect people’s health. Yet mounting scientific evidence has led experts to conclude that climate change presents “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. A recent study demonstrated that there are 467 different pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have already been impacted by climate hazards. Here are 8 major ways that climate change harms our health today and threatens it tomorrow...”

File image:

New Governors Target Climate Change From Day One in Vulnerable Great Lakes Region. InsideClimate News has the story: “Climate change poses risks to the economy and identity of a Great Lakes landscape, much of it defined by bountiful farms, pine forests and clear waters. But political leaders haven’t always treated it that way. That’s starting to change as a wave of new governors and attorneys general take office across the region with promises—and actions—to address climate change. The regional changes may signal a new dynamic for national debates, as climate policy advocates broaden their base of support to include some of the country’s hubs of manufacturing and farming. It also is happening at a time of growing urgency for concerted state-level efforts on climate change in response to the federal government’s push to roll back greenhouse gas emissions rules…”

Image credit: “Climate change is increasingly evident in the extreme weather, heat waves and algae blooms that can hurt agriculture, drinking water and tourism in the region, as the 2018 National Climate Assessment describes.” Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, ORBIMAGE.